TAMPA BAY, Fla. – A Tampa Bay newspaper is taking the local school district to task for failing to rid itself of former teacher and union official Richard Wisemiller.
Wisemiller was a frontrunner to become the next president of the Pinellas Teachers Association union until the Tampa Bay Times exposed his history of groping young female students and other inappropriate behavior.
Wisemiller lost the union election in March, and state officials are looking into revoking his teaching license. Officials at Tarpon Springs Middle School have already removed the science teacher from the classroom and he will reportedly retire after this school year, according to the newspaper.
“Frankly, that sounds too good for him,” the newspaper’s editorial board opined. “The record shows this man spent years using his position of authority as a middle school teacher to grope and fondle young girls. As far back as 2000 at Dundein Highland Middle School, Wisemiller was accused of pushing a seventh-grader’s bra strap and shirt off her shoulder.
“Among the other incidents that continued through March and are listed in school district documents: pinching midriffs, sliding his fingers into the waistband of pants, touching breasts and lower backs. This man had no business being in a classroom or around children in any environment,” according to the op-ed.
Despite regular and repeated reprimands, Wisemiller was allowed to continue teaching, and even allowed to transfer schools multiple times when confronted by school officials with complaints from parents and colleagues, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Wisemiller was serving as the vice president of the Pinellas Teachers Association in recent years, and if it wasn’t for the Tampa Bay Times story about his history of bad behavior, it’s quite possible he would have become the district’s top union official.
What makes Wisemiller’s case especially frustrating is the fact that he has received glowing performance reviews despite his inappropriate actions, the Times opined.
“The union ought to be embarrassed for not checking his background, and the school district owes an explanation to parents,” according to the newspaper. “It should question how a Tarpon Springs Middle School assistant principal could write in the last evaluation that ‘Mr. Wisemiller demonstrates the principles of professional conduct’ and, ‘He takes a genuine interest in his students.’
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“Public education policy emphasizes honest job evaluations and accountability, and this situation flunks both standards.”
Regrettably, the same can be said of countless similar situations in school districts across the country.
Teachers are sexually abusing k-12 students, everywhere and every day, yet so many people, inside and outside of the education establishment, refuse to acknowledge the depth of the problem.