Friday, December 18, 2015

SHARMAN QUITS: Excessive Use of Force Led to Demotion

If the victim of the excessive force incident were a white middle school child, from privileged parents, the Dean would have been indicted.  Thanks to the School Board and Superintendent for doing the right thing -- while a few racists ululate, using words like "animalistic" and "thug" to describe the victim, "beating" to describe what the victim deserved, and lynching" to describe the due process vindicating student rights to be free from excessive force. The victimizer, PETER SHARMAN, has retired. Good riddance. He acted like a bully, and no one likes a racist bully. Blowing whistles, barking orders, mistreating and manhandling students, declaring a "riot" -- these are the actions of a bully. No longer will anyone at Sebastian Middle School have the title of "Dean." Good call. Enough bullying. Let kids be kids.

Sebastian ex-dean Sharman opts for retirement over returning to school district

Posted: December 17, 2015 - 11:43pm | Updated: December 17, 2015 - 11:45pm

DARON.DEAN@STAUGUSTINE.COM Peter Sharman, former Sebastian Middle School dean of students, is cross-examined while on the witness stand during a school board hearing Wednesday afternoon, December 9, 2015.

Peter Sharman, the embattled former dean of students at Sebastian Middle School, has declined the option of returning to the St. Johns County School District.

Sharman sent a one-sentence letter Tuesday to Cathy Hutchins, associate superintendant of human resources, informing her of his intent to retire.

“Please accept this letter as official documentation of my intent to retire effective immediately and advise of any further action that needs my attention to facilitate this process,” he wrote.

Sharman had challenged the school district’s recommendation to terminate him for his use of physical force while removing a student from the school cafeteria on Sept. 16 — with mixed results.

The St. Johns County School Board decided unanimously on Dec. 9 that Sharman should not be terminated but that Superintendent Joe Joyner was more or less justified in his outrage over the incident.

The board suspended Sharman without pay for the rest of the semester and recommended he be reassigned to another school or facility in a position of Joyner’s choosing.

Christina Langston, spokeswoman for the school district, said Sharman had been offered a position at Gamble Rogers Middle School as a seventh-grade exceptional student education teacher — along with additional training — the same day as his letter of resignation.

A phone call placed to Sharman for comment Thursday afternoon was not returned.

In Sharman’s absence, Kristin Bozeman, who had served as assistant principal at St. Augustine High School from 2011 to 2015, was made an assistant principal at Sebastian.

“Instead of a dean we have two assistant principals there, and they’re splitting the discipline,” Langston said.

She said that move is not considered temporary and that the school district is not seeking a new dean of students for Sebastian at this time.

Following the board’s Dec. 9 decision, Sharman told The Record he wasn’t sure whether he would return to work in a new position. He had been dean at Sebastian since 1995.


Sharman; Robert O’Shell, a physical education teacher; and Jarrod Branco, a paraprofessional and boys and girls volleyball coach, each received notice of termination for a role in the Sept. 16 incident. O’Shell and Branco later accepted a reduced punishment of a 15-day suspension and reassignment.

Having fulfilled their suspensions, Branco was reassigned to St. Johns Technical High School as a paraprofessional and O’Shell is at Pacetti Bay Middle School as a coach in the physical education department.

Sharman did not accept a similar offer for settlement but instead exercised his right for a formal hearing in front of the school board. He had said after his hearing it was important that he be able to present his side of the story.

“I just wanted it all to be out there,” he said.

School board members all referenced the surveillance video of the incident showing Sharman, along with Branco and O’Shell, struggling to physically control the student who refused to leave the cafeteria despite repeated orders from Sharman.

The three employees attempted to place him in a wheelchair in order to move him to a room across the hall from the cafeteria, but he fought so much that the three men ended up carrying the flailing student out.

The identity of the student was not released because he is a minor. He was referred to as “JM” during the hearing.

School board member Bev Slough said the video, taken by school surveillance cameras, was “disturbing and appalling.”

Still, Slough and others acknowledged Sharman was in a difficult, emotional situation, and they didn’t think he would intentionally harm a student.

School district officials said there should have been more verbal de-escalation on Sharman’s part.

George Freeman, ESE program specialist, testified that school district policy prohibits the use of physical force unless the student is posing a threat to himself or others.

Sharman and his attorney Archibald Thomas argued it was not a crisis situation but one in which a student simply needed to be removed and refused to cooperate.

Freeman said verbal interaction still would have been the right response, although he said use of a wheelchair to move noncompliant students is not directly addressed in the school district’s behavior management strategy.

Sharman claimed both verbal and nonverbal communication strategies had been tried but were ineffective.

He also testified he had a similar experience with JM in May when the student had to be removed from a physical education class. He said there was no reprimand in that incident.

Although the school board disagreed with Sharman’s actions, some also said the student bore at least some responsibility for his defiance of a school administrator.

School board chair Patrick Canan said it was ultimately Sharman’s responsibility to rise above the actions of an emotional middle school student and that it was never clear to him why Sharman singled out JM to be removed from the cafeteria.

Sharman had been employed by the school district since 1989.

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