Thousands are demanding the reinstatement of a Florida middle school assistant principal after she was demoted for disarming a student on campus.
Halyie Gutierrez gathered thousands of signatures calling on the School District of Lee County to reinstate her mother, Vivian Gutierrez, who was recently demoted over how she handled a report of a student with a gun while assistant principal of Harns Marsh Middle School last year, WINK reports.
“Her actions in my opinion and the opinion of several thousand people according to the petition is that she reacted reasonably and effectively,” Haylie told the news site. “No one was hurt.”
“Because of her quick reaction that day, no student or employee was killed, injured or traumatized and she is being punished for that,” according to the Change.org petition.
District officials confirmed to the Fort Myers News-Press that Gutierrez was demoted from assistant principal to teacher effective for the upcoming school year after an internal investigation found she violated school procedures when she received a report of a student with a BB-gun at the school last December.
The News-Press reports:
A Jan. 9 internal case report from the school district included a complaint that Gutierrez might have violated Florida Administrative Code and school board policy. The report argues that she failed to respond in a timely and adequate manner to a significant student and staff safety issue, a gun on campus.
The internal report noted the incident timeline reported by Gutierrez was inconsistent by about 15 minutes when compared to video and photo evidence.
Gutierrez said she never touched the weapon except to slide it across a table, the internal report states. School surveillance video shows her holding the handgun by the trigger guard at one point.
The investigation noted Gutierrez did not notify the school principal or resource officer on Dec. 20 before heading to the classroom where the student was with the gun. A sheriff’s department investigation also found Gutierrez peered into the principal’s office, with the principal in clear view, before walking away to address the situation.
When Gutierrez escorted the student to the office for a search, the teen retained control of the backpack and gun, according to the sheriff’s investigation.
“The manner in which the deputy was notified caused a delay in securing that firearm. Thankfully, the incident ended without discharge of the weapon and without injury,” the department wrote in a prepared statement on Sunday.
Gutierrez has been on paid leave since January. District spokesman Rob Spicker told the News-Press Gutierrez’s demotions centers on district policy 2.11: “It shall be the duty of all District personnel to report to the principal or direct supervisor, any condition which may constitute a safety or security hazard.”
Guttierrez’s attorney, Ben Yormack, argued the district doesn’t have a policy for dealing with a report of a student with a non-lethal weapon, as the initial report suggested the weapon was a BB gun.
The actual weapon was a Sig Sauer .380 semi-automatic handgun.
“What happened to her is outrageous and astounding,” Yormak told the News-Press. “They are trying to make her a scapegoat in the absence of a policy.”
“The fact of the matter is it was a report of a non-lethal weapon,” he told WINK. “She went. She took custody of the student, took custody of what she thought was a non-lethal weapon until it turned out it was an actual gun when it came out of the bag.”
“What the district is doing here is trying to cover up,” Yormack said. “It did not have any policies that covered this.”
Gutierrez’s supporters plan to present their petition at the district’s next school board meeting.
The student involved in the case, a senior who was not identified, faces felony charges.