In 2011, the citizens of the United States were enraged at how Penn State school officials were covering up a child molester in order to protect its football program. In 2012, Americans were shocked at how the community of Steubenville, Ohio, was protecting several high school football players of raping a 16-year-old girl. In 2013, I found out that my own hometown school board was protecting its football program. In July 2013, Manatee High School assistant football coach Rod Frazier was charged with seven counts of misdemeanor battery after being accused of inappropriately touching and interacting with female students. As the Bradenton Police Department dove deeper into its investigation, it discovered how Manatee County School Board knew about two allegations, yet allowed him to continue to coach while he was being investigated and was on paid leave. The police also discovered how other Manatee High School employees also witnessed Frazier’s abnormal behavior with female students, but nothing was done to protect the students. Bradenton is now a town that treasures its football program more than the well-being of the students.
Frazier’s Downward Spiral
Manatee High School has five official football state championships, the most recent one being in 2011. Throughout the 2012 season, the football team, the Hurricanes, was ranked #1 in the nation before losing in the playoffs in December. Frazier attended and played football at Manatee High School and University of Florida and he returned to Manatee High School in 2001 to become the assistant football coach. In 2006, he was hired as a parent liaison, the person to whom referrals and other disciplinary actions are first reported at the school, and the weightlifting coach – these two positions now gave him contact with female students. In 2007, Frazier’s life began a downward spiral: a bank foreclosed his home, the court ordered him to pay child support, and he was arrested for violating a restraining order by his estranged wife. The restraining order was filed after Frazier’s former wife claim he choked her and used cocaine. The wife never pressed charges, so Frazier was released from prison and returned to his job at Manatee High School.
On November 15, 2012, Frazier was placed on paid leave pending an investigation of improper conduct. He was instructed to stay off of school board property until further notice, BUT he shows up at Manatee High School the next day to coach the first football playoff game of the season. On January 9, 2013, a letter from a former female student is brought to Manatee High School principal Don Sauer’s office. The letter claims Frazier inappropriately touched the female student, met her in a park, and asked for a naked picture. The student transferred to Palmetto High School to get away from Frazier. On January 10, the student and her mother are interviewed by Debra Horne, the school district investigator (who has been investigated Frazier since November). On January 24, Horne requests to be transferred to another administrative position, “due to a number of unjustified issues that have impacted me personally and professionally.” After the Bradenton Herald-Tribune published a story about how the school board is investigating Frazier, the Bradenton Police Department launches its own investigation on February 7 and Frazier is placed on paid leave…again.
Witnesses Come Forward
The first time Frazier did something inappropriate was August 2008 and the last time was December 2012. During the investigation, the first victim claims Frazier touched her, sent her text messages, asked for naked photos, and told her that he loved her. The student claims she was in Frazier’s office more than 100 times; there was even a time when Frazier pulled her onto his lap in front of another employee, but the employee never reported the incident. Even though other school employees saw a female student go into an adult male’s office with the door closed numerous times, not one of them said anything or questioned why a student is there and not in class. A former parent liaison at the high school, Adinah Torres, has come forward with information about Frazier; she claims he inappropriately rubbed his leg against hers while she was in his office being trained. She reported him to her supervisor, yet nothing was done. Torres also witnessed girls entering his office and sitting on Frazier’s desk so as soon as she could, Torres found a new job and left Manatee High School due to the uncomfortable environment Frazier caused. Another student claims he slapped her on the buttocks several times and only stopped after she got firm with him. At the moment, the victims include a total of four female students and three female teachers. Bradenton residents have also come forward saying how they and other parents saw how Frazier inappropriately touched female students during weightlifting meets – they claim he would rub up against girls and stroke them. The police say there are at least 50 people who witnessed Frazier’s inappropriate behavior over the years.
School Board Fails
The original school board investigation began on November 15, 2012. Interim Superintendent David Gayler claims the investigation was based on “rumors and innuendos about inappropriate relationships with students.” Even if it’s just rumors, the school board should still take a case seriously and report it to the police since there are children involved. It’s becoming too common for teachers abusing their powers to take control of students. My own high school, Lakewood Ranch High School (which is also in Bradenton), had its own trouble with a track coach sleeping with a 17-year-old female student. Though the student claimed it was consensual (which doesn’t exist when an adult is sleeping with an underage student), Ernest Lee Jones received 5 years in prison. When asked about how Frazier was placed on November 15, but showed up the next day to coach a football game, Gayler stated “If he went back to work after a day, then they couldn’t find anything to attach the complaint.” Frazier was placed on paid leave and ordered not to go on school board property, which includes the school, but he ignored it and went to the high school to coach football. Frazier should not be allowed on school property when he is being investigated for abusing students. Gayler says nothing was discovered about Frazier, but what investigation lasts less than two days? Was there even an official investigation? Horne was in charge of the investigation in November and was given a list of four female students to contact by assistant football coach, Steve Gulash, but she never did! Horne was in charge of finding out if Frazier was abusing four female students, but she never bothered to contact them. When the investigation was re-launched in January after the former student delivered the letter, she asked to be transferred to a new position; she is now an assistant principal at Prine Elementary School. Horne’s job was to determine if Frazier was a threat to children, yet she never bothered to ask one student and now she’s in charge of young children; do you feel safer knowing she’s there? There is also no proof that Manatee High School and the Manatee County School Board reported the potential crimes to the police, which they must do by law.
After the first female student came forward about Frazier, she became a victim of cyber bullying because we live in a world where a female is automatically a slut if she is a victim. Gulash saw the bullying on her Facebook page and reported it to the police in April 2013, but he was reprimanded by the school board for not reporting it to his superiors first (even though he went to the Manatee High School principal). Gulash claims he and other staff members were being harassed by Manatee County administrators involved in Frazier’s case and says several employees and students will not come forward because they are afraid of the consequences (the students don’t want to be bullied by fellow students and the teachers don’t want to lose their job in a county that is not hiring teachers for the next year). The mother of the girl being teased also reported bullying to Palmetto High School but nothing was done and the Palmetto Police Department says there is not enough evidence was there for there to be a crime. A high school employee used his power to abuse girls, yet he was protected while the girls are labeled sluts and are teased by fellow students. When does football become more important than a child? When does football become more important than a human being? Never.
Charges are filed
On April 1, Bradenton Police recommend that Frazier be charged and on July 19, the State Attorney’s office charges Frazier with seven counts of misdemeanor battery and three counts of interference with the attendance of a student in school, which are second degree misdemeanors. On July 23, Superintendent Rick Mills announces that the district will reopen its investigation into the Frazier case (because they did such a great job the first two times). On July 25, hundreds of pornographic images are found on Frazier’s school computer and now the police department is trying to discover if the porn is current or former Manatee High School students. Frazier officially resigned the next day and is now waiting to be arraigned August 8. Besides Frazier, the Bradenton Police force recommends that former assistant superintendent Bob Gagnon, former school investigator Debra Horne, former Manatee High School assistant principal Matthew Kane, and current Manatee High School assistant principal Greg Faller should be charged with failing to report child abuse and lying to the police. As members of the school board, their number one job is the protect children, but none of them did. All of them are still working and at the moment, none of them have been charged even though failing to report suspected child abuse is a crime. They all knew something was going on, yet not one of them did anything to save a child from a monster.
Frazier is not the only criminal
Rod Frazier was an assistant football coach at one of the top high school football programs in the nation. He knew he had power and he abused it by inappropriately touching female students and staff members for several years. Several students, parents, and employees knew Frazier was abusing students, but when it was reported to the Manatee County School board, nothing was done! Debra Horne, a female adult who should care about the interests of female students, failed to investigate the allegations correctly. If the Bradenton Herald-Tribune didn’t write about the allegations in January 2013, then the Bradenton Police Department would never have known about Frazier since NO ONE contacted the police, which is the correct protocol when a CHILD IS SUSPECTED OF BEING ABUSED. After the Penn State incident, Florida passed the strictest law in the nation for anyone who fails to report child abuse – a possible five year prison sentence. Manatee High School and Manatee County School Board decided that football was more important than children – everyone involved in protecting a monster deserves to face the consequences.