Four Manatee County school administrators are charged with felonies for not reporting child abuse. The charges are related to Manatee High football coach Rod Frazier, who was arrested last week on 7 counts of misdemeanor battery and 3 counts of interference with the attendance of a student. Frazier was accused of inappropriately touching female students. He has since resigned from his coaching job. The administrators facing charges include Robert Gagnon, a former Manatee County assistant superintendent; Greg Faller and Matt Kane, both former assistant principals at Manatee High; and Debra Horn, who served as the school district’s internal investigator during the Frazier case. Click here to read the entire police investigation.
The Administrators Could Get More Jail Time than The Coach
The school district employees could each face a 5 year jail sentence for the charge of not reporting abuse. However, Frazier only faces the possibility of a 1 year sentence for the simple battery charges. So why is this? A big reason is a new law passed in Florida after the Penn State sex abuse scandal. The law, called the Protection of Vulnerable Persons Act, says that anyone who fails to report suspected abuse faces a 3rd degree felony charges. The law took effect on October 1, 2012 and is one of the strictest reporting law in the nation.
Law Over-Criminalizes Failure to Report
From a criminal defense perspective, the state attorney’s office may have a difficult time prosecuting this in court. While the new law is meant to protect children from abuse, it’s untested, with almost no case law behind it, and it overly criminalizes the situation. For example, if a high school math teacher notices bruises on a student’s arm and reports it, will the other 5 or 6 teachers who saw the student earlier that day, but did not report the bruises face felony charges? The answer is, probably. But it’s up to the State’s Attorney to use discretion about which cases to charge.
If you’re being investigated by a school district or by law enforcement, contact Mark Zimmerman, an board certified criminal defense attorney with experience representing school employees in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.