Action News Jax Investigates DCPS teacher’s history of violence following lawsuit
A Jacksonville mother is going after Duval County Public Schools in court after she said it failed to protect her son in the classroom. Her lawsuit said he was abused by his teacher, a woman with a known violent criminal history.
Action News Jax Investigator Emily Turner dug into court records and her personnel file and found not only does the teacher have a violent history, there are questions about why she was in the classroom at all when the event happened.
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Lachaundra Wilson said she no longer has faith in Duval County Public Schools.
“I don’t trust anybody anymore with my son,” Wilson said. And her son, Tidus, feels even worse.
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“It’s traumatizing to him,” Wilson said, “because now he just doesn’t even like school.”
Two years ago, then-4-year-old Tidus came home from Southside Estates Elementary with a gash on his forehead. “He kept saying Miss Kerry hit him,” Wilson said, “and when I looked at his head, it was a Band-Aid full of blood.”
His teacher was a woman named Kerry Schwetz. She was never criminally charged with hitting Tidus, but the school opened a professional standards investigation, called in the Florida Department of Children and Families, and moved Schwetz out of the classroom.
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Wilson took her son to the hospital and now, she’s filing suit against the district for negligent entrustment. Her attorney, Shannon Schott, said Schwetz shouldn’t have been in a classroom in the first place, thanks to a violent criminal history and disciplinary problems with the district.
“You should not be entrusting children, particularly young children in the VPK programs, who have special needs and developmental disabilities or behavioral disabilities, to people who don’t even have the basic ability to not harm other people under stressful situations,” Schott said.
Investigator Emily Turner pulled Schwetz’s records, both her criminal record and her personnel file from DCPS. It shows a violent timeline.
In 2018, Schwetz was arrested for battery against her neighbor. The police report said she pushed her way into the elderly woman’s home, “grabbed the victim’s right forearm and shoved her into a wall,” causing injury. Schwetz pleaded no contest. Shortly after, DCPS pulled her from the classroom and reported her to the Florida Department of Education’s Education Practices Commission.
While Schwetz was settling that case with the Department of Education and was on disciplinary leave from DCPS, she was investigated by the district for a reported “inappropriate Facebook post” and comments making fun of her special needs students. Disciplinary reports show that included a photo of herself with one special needs student and agreeing with a comment about it calling them, “vaccine injured.”
Yet eight weeks later, DCPS put her back in a classroom with special needs elementary children after assigning her to a new school and she settled her case with the Department of Education.
In November of that same year, she was arrested for aggravated battery and false imprisonment. The report says she “beat the subject over the head with a toilet paper roll holder repeatedly” causing a “laceration on the back of her skull.”
DCPS pulled her from the classroom after that, reassigning her out of the school.
But DCPS put her back seven months later, but has yet to explain why because her battery case had yet to be resolved.
That battery case was still pending when Tidus came home wounded and bloody.
When asked about this timeline, Schott shakes her head in disbelief and said, “The way that was handled was just absolutely atrocious.”
Turner asked Wilson if she felt like the school district let her down.
Wilson’s response: “Definitely. Because she still had her job. How in the world was this woman still able to have a job?”
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Schott said, given Schwetz’s violent record, the district could and should have pulled Schwetz from the classroom until that second battery charge was resolved. But it didn’t. She also said the terms of Schwetz’s settlement with the state Department of Education allowed for the district to fire her if she violates the law or does not “fully comply with all district school board regulations, school rules.”
Our investigation also found no record of the district following up on the agreement’s requirement Schwetz get a psychological evaluation and any necessary treatment.
We asked the district for an interview on the way they handled this but they have yet to agree. But in the meantime, Wilson has a suggestion for them: “They got to do better. They got to do better.“
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Schwetz didn’t get fired until a few months later -- (2/22/21) -- and it wasn’t for any of the issues earlier in the timeline. It was for stealing money from the district in the form of fraud and falsified FMLA claims. She was charged with those crimes, too.
Then, eight months later, (10/10/22) she was back in jail on another violent charge. She was arrested for elder abuse against her own mother, who later dropped the charges.
After all that, we checked, and Schwetz’s teaching certificate was just renewed, allowing her to teach preschool, elementary and special needs children.
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