Fla. Teacher Fired After Allegedly Faking Terminal Illness For A Year

Ashley Barker, Laurel Elementary School teacherBy Elicia Dover

A Florida first grade teacher has been suspended for allegedly lying about having a terminal disease so that she could leave school early and take extra days off.

Ashley Barker, a teacher at the Laurel Elementary School in the Polk County School District, was informed by the school board that she would be recommended for termination earlier this week. Barker, who could not be reached for comment, is appealing the board's decision and is suspended without pay in the meantime, according to a school district document.In her termination letter, obtained by ABC News, the school administrator says that the school reviewed approximately 120 emails over the course of less than a year sent by Barker saying that she and her father were terminally ill. Principal Julia Allen allowed Barker "days off and flexibility to leave early," according to the letter.

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"It was later discovered that you and your father were not ill and that you had lied in the emails," Assistant Superintendent Dennis Dunn wrote to Barker. "When (Personnel Investigator Manny) Rodriguez asked you what you did during the time you did not go to work or were allowed to leave work early, you responded that you stayed home," Dunn's letter said. The letter concluded there was "just cause" for her termination.

It was not known what illness Barker allegedly claimed to be suffering from and she and her father could not be reached for comment. District spokeswoman Julie Togba would not tell ABC News how they discovered Barker was lying, but did say they had never seen anything like this in their school district.

8 Bizarre Stories of Teacher Behavior
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Fla. Teacher Fired After Allegedly Faking Terminal Illness For A Year

Last October, Jennifer Gomes, an elementary-school gym teacher in Denver, allegedly left a note outside the Catholic school where she worked, which read "there is a bomb inside." The 42-year-old was arrested two days later, and allegedly told police that she left the note because she didn't want to go to work that day. Gomes was suspended from the school, and earlier this month was sentenced to four years of mental health probation and 180 days of home detention.

In April 2008, kindergarten teacher Susan Graham sent a 5-year-old student home with a bag of feces nestled in his backpack, along with the note, "This little turd was on the floor of my room." The boy's parents contacted the West Valley, Wash., school district and the boy was moved to another school to carry out the school year. "I'm still kind of in shock over this, because why would somebody do this?" asked the boy's father. "It's disgusting."

The district sent the 58-year-old teacher a warning letter, which said that similar behavior in the future would result in disciplinary action, possibly termination.

When Spring Hill, Tenn., police received a call last August about a suspicious male with a duffel bag, under a bridge at the local elementary school, they went out to investigate. They found the 56-year-old music teacher Daniel Torroll, completely nude, sitting on his knees on a red and white towel, sexually touching a childlike blow-up doll with holes cut in it. The police issued him a citation for public indecency.

The teacher told Nashville's News 2 that he was just walking his dog, didn't realize he was on school property, and suffers from ADD, which makes him impulsively act on his own sexual urges. "It was just a very, very weird situation," he said. "It's a hard thing. I'm in therapy for it."

In May last year, substitute teacher Coleman Eaton Jr. was in charge of a fourth grade class. According to the Riverdale, Georgia police, the 60-year-old walked to the back of the classroom, told the kids "not to turn around," and then urinated in the trashcan. A few of the kids did turn around.

Eaton later claimed that he was simply pouring apple juice into the trashcan. But the police obtained the evidence. He was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated child molestation.

Jeff Spires, a teacher at a high school in Charlotte County, Fla., would up a student's grade if they paper-clipped cash ($15 to $70) to the back of their papers or tests. When the school found out last October, it suspended him without pay. Spires resigned by the end of the month.

When investigators asked him why he did it, he replied: "That's what I don't know -- why. Maybe I see the kids are as desperate as I am."

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In August 2008, Wendy Portillo, a kindergarten teacher in Port St. Lucie, Fla., allegedly had every member of her class say what they didn't like about their 5-year-old special needs classmate. She then had them vote as to whether the boy should stay in the class. F14 voted him out; two voted that he should stay. The teacher then asked the boy, who was being tested for autism, what he should do next.

"I guess I'll go sit with the principal," he reportedly said. Portillo then allegedly said that the principal didn't want him around either. The case did not meet the criteria for emotional child abuse, according to the state's attorney's office, so no criminal charges were filed.

But Portillo was suspended from teaching for one year without pay and her tenure was revoked. In an appeal, Portillo won back her tenure.

In December 2010, Delynn Woodside spotted one of her middle school students with a black permanent marker. He was coloring in a piece of paper, and the marker had inked up the desk below. The 50-year-old asked the boy for the pen, and when he tried to hide it, Woodside reported the boy to the Oklahoma City police. She signed a citation, referencing an arcane city ordinance about graffiti. The boy was arrested and taken to a juvenile holding facility.

Last month, San Diego teacher Gonja Wolf allegedly told a freshman girl that she couldn't use the bathroom, and instead had to leave the room, pee in a bucket, and pour it down the sink. After the 14-year-old did as she was told, news leaked out. The relentless taunting she purportedly received from schoolmates led the girl to file a complaint against the school district. The complaint lists damages in excess of $25,000 and Wolf has been placed on administrative leave.


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