A Florida high school teacher was placed on paid leave Tuesday over allegations he drowned a pair of raccoons in a trash bin while students assisted and watched, WKMG reported.
A student at Forest High School in Ocala told WFTV-TV some students were left with nightmares after Dewie Brewton’s sixth-period agricultural science class Monday. The student told the station that Brewton asked students to not record the drownings, but some did.
The raccoons had killed several chickens that students and staff members raise in a shed behind the school, the student told WFTV.
The mother of a student who took photos and video of the incident told WKMG her son came home in tears over what happened to the animals.
“It made me sick,” the woman told the station. “It made me sick to my stomach. It’s terrible. It still does make me sick to my stomach.”
What does video show?
Photos and video show a raccoon in a metal wire trap that the teacher and students then lifted into a garbage bin while they filled it with water from several hoses, WKMG reported.
“When the raccoons tried to come up for air they had metal rods and they held them down with metal rods and when the raccoon would try to pop its head up they held water hoses in its face to drown it,” the mother told the station.
One video showed the tip of a raccoon’s snout sticking just above the surface of the water, WKMG said.
“Why is he not fighting?” one person in the video asked as the raccoon sits in the trap in the trash bin filled nearly to the brim with water, the station added.
The mother added to WKMG that an opossum found later was killed “just for sport.”
“I don’t think that’s the way to treat any animal. Whether it is a raccoon or [another animal] you just don’t torture an animal and kill it like that,” the mother told the station. “They should have trapped the animal[s] and had somebody take them and relocate the animals.”
How did the school district superintendent react?
Marion County Public Schools Superintendent Heidi Maier recommended the district fire the teacher and said the district is “appalled,” WKMG-TV reported in a separate story.
“Marion County’s education standards — in fact, Florida’s education standards — do not include activities for the destruction of live animals, nuisance or not,” the district said in a statement.
What do state wildlife officials have to say?
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers told WFTV they’re investigating the drownings, and the state attorney’s office will determine if charges will be filed. Wildlife officials added to the station that it’s legal to kill nuisance animals, but there are specific rules about humanely killing them.
What are others saying?
Forest High School’s Future Farmers of America alumni supported the teacher on Facebook:
WFTV said it obtained Brewton’s personnel file, which indicates he’s been employed by the district for more than 30 years, received a great deal of praise and hasn’t had any previous issues.
He also was once named teacher of the year.