At Deerfield Beach High School, Staffers Say Principal Is a Bully and Mentally Disabled Students Are Treated Like Janitors
Late last year, a Deerfield Beach High School teacher named Juliet Hibbs was hurled into the international spotlight when a set of parents accused her of encouraging their daughter to become a lesbian. Soon, her name materialized in the Huffington Post, the U.K.'s Daily Mail, and the National Examiner.
Problems plague Deerfield Beach High, teachers allege
Hibbs fought back. She said the girl's stepfather had bullied the girl on Twitter and Hibbs was only doing her duty by reporting the abuse. She said the real problem was her "bullying principal," who, instead of dealing with the issue quietly, kicked it up to the school district, bringing more attention to a delicate situation.
The school district cleared Hibbs of wrongdoing, and she filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint last March. (Her case is pending.) Soon, the furtive hacker group Anonymous injected itself into the fracas, publishing the contact information for producers of the Ellen DeGeneres Show in a strange attempt to get Hibbs on TV to tell her tale.
But there's much more to the high school's story.
Deerfield Beach High has become quite possibly the most controversy-soaked institution in Broward County Public Schools. An assistant principal, Keith Roberson, was convicted of drunk driving at the end of 2011 but kept his job. Another administrator allegedly "tussled" with a student, and now staff are concerned about a program in which mentally disabled students pick up recyclables.
Five school employees say the problems began when Principal Jon Marlow took over around 2006. "As soon as Mr. Marlow came on campus, a lot of problems started up," said Wanda Kearney, a school security guard. "All of the time, he harasses me. He lashes out at me."
She said she witnessed an assistant principal, Ken May, scuffle with a student last January near a vending machine between classes. She claims that she was later called to a meeting with Marlow and that he asked her to write an incident report saying she "hadn't seen anything." Kearney claimed the tall and powerfully built Marlow said that if she refused, she'd be suspended for three days.
Kearney did file a report describing the incident and accusing the principal of harassment, but the student was later suspended for "defiance."
Tracy Clark, a spokesperson for the school district, said she could not confirm whether the matter was investigated or whether May was disciplined.
There are other alleged troubling incidents. A female student says that a male student sexually assaulted her at the end of the 2011-12 school year and that administrators ignored her complaint. Because of privacy concerns, records related to the incident cannot be released, according to an email sent by the school district's public affairs department.