A 2015-16 case of alleged abuse involving special needs kids in Okaloosa County School District identified teacher Roy Frazier, who retired and surrendered his license in June.
Marlynn Stillions wasn’t the only Okaloosa County School District special education teacher identified during the 2015-16 school year for allegedly hurting children in their care.
Roy Michael Frazier, a varying exceptionalities teacher at Silver Sands School, had his teaching certificate permanently revoked June 29 following a state investigation into allegations he struck students, confined them in boxes and tied them to an exercise bike with a belt.
Frazier, a teacher for 30 years consistently rated as highly effective by school district officials, did not contest charges brought by the state’s Education Practices Commission and surrendered his teaching certificate, according to the final order issued in his case. The administrative complaint was originally filed by Pam Stewart, the state's Commissioner of Education.
He had been honored upon his retirement from the Okaloosa County School District just weeks before the revocation was announced.
Frazier, 61, said he would not lose his retirement benefits as a result of the certification revocation and called the entire matter "an involved story."
"I voluntarily turned in the certification," he said. "The situation was handled on the School Board level."
Detailed abuse allegations
The administrative complaint filed by Stewart lists a host of allegations the state Department of Education had lined up against Frazier.
Frazier flicked or pinched students to get their attention, the complaint said. He punched a non-verbal autistic ninth-grader, kicked a 12th-grade girl and “swung” a ninth-grade boy with muscular dystrophy before dropping him on his head.
The complaint alleged Frazier threw shoes at students, confined them in a large cardboard box, improperly used a “calming sack” on an eighth-grader and “secured students to an exercise bike with a belt.”
Frazier also was accused of falsifying test data to “demonstrate improvement” and submitting intentionally falsified documentation for his Community Based Instruction.
The complaint said Frazier exposed a student to embarrassment by making crude/vulgar comments about the student’s mother in front of another adult.
It said he brought a BB gun into his classroom.
The complaint also said Frazier failed to properly disclose the destinations of student field trips, and left students in a vehicle while he shopped at yard/garage sales.
He also brought purchased items to class and had a student aide repair them, the complaint said. The BB gun was one of those items.
Many of the state’s allegations mirrored findings of ethics and professional conduct violations reported by the school district. The School Board voted in April 2016 to suspend Frazier for three days after an investigation report obtained by the Northwest Florida Daily News confirmed six violations of the district’s code of ethics and/or principles of professional conduct.
Frazier said he was not worried a criminal investigation could result from the school district and Education Practices Commission findings.
"This is not that type of incident. It is entirely different," he said. "That's not an issue. The way the state did their part was where the problems lie."
School Board Chairman Lamar White confirmed Tuesday that he had not seen a copy of the school district's investigation report prior to receiving a phone call from the Daily News.
Sheriff's Office closed the case
The School District investigation was initiated Feb. 24, 2016, just days after the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office closed a child abuse investigation against Frazier following an alleged punching incident.
The Sheriff’s Office investigation got underway Feb. 16, 2016, when Silver Sands School Principal Jon Williams was notified that on Dec. 23, 2015, teacher’s aide Kelsea Koch had seen Frazier punch a special needs student in the chest.
In an initial discussion, Koch told a deputy “he observed Frazier punch (the student) with a closed fist hard enough for Koch to hear it across the room,” a Sheriff’s Office report said.
Williams told investigators he had also been provided information about “pinching and grabbing” by Frazier.
Williams contacted the Florida Department of Children and Families abuse hotline the day he heard about the alleged abuse, the Sheriff’s Office report said.
DCF would not confirm nor deny Tuesday whether it had investigated the alleged child abuse, but Frazier claimed DCF had investigated the abuse charges and determined them to be unfounded.
Frazier was placed on administrative leave the same day Williams received news of the alleged abuse. As he was being led from the school, Frazier told a deputy “he has never harmed a student in his 30 years of teaching” and “when he places his hands on the students he always uses an open hand to guide them where he needs to go.”
The criminal investigation came to an abrupt end three days later.
Told not to speak
Koch told the investigating deputy on Feb. 18, 2016, that he had been advised by representatives of the school district and the local teacher’s union not to speak.
"Koch informed me school administrator Mr. Farley informed him not to talk to me. He further stated his union representative informed him not to talk to me,” the deputy reported.
Charges were formally dropped the next day when a person with the authority to do so (the name was redacted in the Sheriff’s Office report) told the investigator “he and his wife had decided the allegation of abuse against Frazier is not credible” and signed a drop charges form.
In a twist considering the narrative from the Sheriff's Office's investigation, on Feb. 24, Farley took a statement from Koch and began the school district’s investigation of Frazier’s actions.
Koch, who could not be reached for comment, told Farley he had “witnessed physical things ... and heard more verbal abuse than I would ever want to know occurs in a classroom” while working with Frazier. He testified to seeing punches, pinches and a child being swung, then dropped on his head. He also said he’d seen shoes being thrown at children.
“I was mortified constantly by what I saw and heard in his classroom,” Koch said in the school district investigation report.
Another witness confirmed some of the allegations brought by Koch.
Investigator confirms charges
After speaking to Frazier, Farley was able to confirm charges that the veteran teacher had inappropriately redirected students with physical contact. He also confirmed “inappropriate judgment” when swinging a child and by jokingly asking an aide to pinch a child.
Frazier acknowledged taking children to yard sales and “buying personal items for resale later and offloading the items at his residence during his official work day.”
He also admitted to bringing a BB gun, which he stuffed into an umbrella so no one would see it, into his classroom for an aide to fix during lunchtime.
Farley’s investigation did not confirm that shoes were thrown in Frazier’s classroom, but advised the teacher “not to throw shoes,” the report said.
Farley recommended in his report, filed March 5, 2016, that Frazier be disciplined for violating the code of ethics and principles of professional conduct for educators. He also asked that Frazier be evaluated to decide whether he belonged with disabled students.
He recommended the investigative report he filed be forwarded to the state for review and/or action.
Similar to Stillions case
The types of abuse Frazier was accused of committing are in some ways similar to those for which Stillions, a former Kenwood Elementary School pre-K special education teacher, is facing four felony counts of child abuse without great bodily harm.
Stillions was arrested Sept. 13 after the Sheriff’s Office conducted a criminal investigation. That case started after the father of a now 6-year-old non-verbal autistic boy, Eddie Perillo, turned over a Farley code of ethics investigation report from 2016, obtained through a public records request, which appeared to provide evidence of child abuse involving Perillo's son.
Farley and former Kenwood Principal Angelyn Vaughan were both charged following the investigation with multiple felony counts of failure to report child abuse.
Stillions, who was not disciplined by the school district after Farley turned in his report, left Kenwood after the 2015-16 school year for a position at Silver Sands School. In June 2016, she applied for, but did not get the same job Frazier had at Silver Sands, email records show.
The Stillions investigation, now in the hands of the State Attorney’s Office, remains open.