Sarasota Superintendent Wants Acquitted Teacher Fired
By Tiffany Lankes, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, February 20, 2009

Sarasota, FL Schools Superintendent Lori White is recommending that the school board fire Diana O'Neill, who was accused of abusing her profoundly disabled students at Venice Elementary.

The school district delivered termination letters to O'Neill and the teachers union this morning. The letter states that O'Neill used inappropriate physical force, made disparaging comments to students and misused therapy equipment. It also states that O'Neill disobeyed her principal's directive that she should not strike students.

A jury acquitted O'Neill last week of the criminal child abuse charges against her. But the school district has different standards for determining whether to fire an employee.

O'Neill can appeal the decision to Florida's Division of Administrative Hearings. She has 15 days to file a written request for a hearing.

The school board will vote whether to accept or reject the recommendation March 17.

Parents of the students O'Neill was accused of abusing were relieved to hear of the outcome.

"How wonderful," said parent Patty Sherknus. "I don't know quite what to say except I'm glad they made the right decision."

O'Neill could not immediately be reached for comment.

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