Parents Question Why Foreign Teachers Are Getting Away with Child Abuse in Hernando County Schools
WEEKI WACHEE (R News) – Since 1961, the U.S. Department of State has allowed teachers from around the world to work in the United States under a J-1 visa for up to five years. The program called TPG Cultural Exchange helps establish diplomacy with other countries and allows K-12 students the opportunity to learn about other cultures. However, some say there are serious issues with the program that need to be addressed.
Yesterday, R News reported that a first grader at Winding Waters K-8 had allegedly been abused by his teacher, Kimberle McFarlane FULL STORY. According to the student's mother, McFarlane grabbed her son's face and shook his head while screaming at him. On another occasion, McFarlane grabbed his arm so hard that it left an obvious bruise in the shape of a handprint.
R News obtained a copy of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office report, which contained details of the allegations. In the report, McFarlane admits to putting her hands on the student but tries to minimize the severity and downplay her intentions. Deputy Brian Timothy, the School Resource Officer (SRO) who took the complaint, notes that McFarlane is from Jamaica and is part of the TPG Cultural Exchange Program.
During the investigation, Deputy Timothy says he and Assistant Principal Melissa Tomlinson interviewed other students in the class. One student stated that Ms. McFarlane always yells in class, and she often grabs students by their arms when they aren't listening. Another student said his harm was grabbed by Ms. McFarlane, but she claims it was "Just a light squeeze."
Deputy Timothy says he attempted to get written statements from the victims, but their writing was "illegible."
Deputy Timothy closed the case without arrest and McFarlane returned to the classroom, where she is still teaching today.
Brittany Trammel tells R News that this issue is nothing new and that her daughter's 4th grade teacher was also abusive towards students at WWK8.
According to Trammel, "They had two full classes of 4th graders crammed in a classroom with two foreign exchange teachers, one from Jamaica and one from Vietnam. They spoke horrible English, kids couldn't understand them, they both yelled in the kids' faces, crumpled their papers, and slammed their hands down on the kids' desks." Trammel goes on to say, "The Jamaican teacher was hitting kids! The admin made the exact same excuse, 'They do things differently in their countries.'" Trammel says that she and several other parents complained to the school and district about the abuse and the Jamaican teacher was fired. When Trammel learned of the most recent incident, she said, "I cannot believe this is actually happening again and being given the same excuse!"
Jolene Coontz Marlnee commented on our Adventure Coast Journal Facebook Page, stating, "I can tell you she was very physical when my granddaughter was in her classroom and my daughter got her out of there before she was able to touch her." Marlnee says her granddaughter would come home sick every day until she finally talked about the abuse she was going through. Marlnee says school officials made excuses for McFarlane in her case as well.
Parents want to know why a teacher who has been investigated several times for abusing children is still in the classroom and why the Sheriff's Office refuses to charge these foreign teachers with child abuse or battery.
R News contacted the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, the Florida Department of Education, the District's board members, and the superintendent for comment, but none of them have responded. This is the same "response" we received from school and law enforcement officials in Hernando County after R News broke the Fox Chapel story earlier this year. Only after every national news outlet around the country focused on the story did officials finally comment.
We will continue to report on any new developments.