Marion County, Florida, teacher Dewie Brewton was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday while officials investigate allegations that he drowned trapped raccoons with student participation during school hours, the Ocala Star Banner reported.
A parent told Fox 35 she was "disgusted" when her son, a student in the Forest High School agricultural science class, brought home video of the incident she said he secretly recorded.
"My son stood in the background, hid his phone and watched as they filled these trash cans full of water, and held these raccoons down in trash cans in the cages,” the parent told the station.
A student told WFTV raccoons had killed some chickens the class has been raising in a shed behind the school. The student told the station a previous class had filled a trashcan with water, and that the students and teacher drowned the trapped raccoons in it. The student said the teacher told them not to record the incident, according to the station.
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"When the raccoons tried to come up for air they had metal rods and they held them down with metal rods and when the raccoon would try to pop its head up they held water hoses in its face to drown it," a parent told WKMG, which released a heavily censored clip of the incident in which no animals are visible.
In the clip, students can be seen standing around a black trashcan filled with water. A metal wire cage appears to be placed in the can at the top of the water. One students suggests switching "him" into a smaller cage and then putting it "back in there." Another student says "Why is he not fighting?"
The parent told the station two raccoons were killed along with an opossum.
“My son joined ag science, because he loves animals not to torture them,” a parent told Fox 35, which was also provided the video but called it "too disturbing" to share.
Marion County School District spokesman Kevin Christian told the Ocala Star Banner the district had "received statements that the teacher drowned multiple animals in front of students, and with student participation, because the animals were nuisance animals to the ag program at the school," and that Dewie Brewton had been removed from class pending an investigation.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is also investigating, and told WJCB it was "looking into" the legality of the alleged incident .
"While law enforcement tells us the teacher may not have done anything illegal, his actions before students are certainly questionable," the school district said in a statement, according to Fox 35.
"I don't think that's the way to treat any animal. Whether it is a raccoon or (another animal) you just don't torture an animal and kill it like that. They should have trapped the animal and had somebody take them and relocate the animals," a parent told WKMG.
On Facebook, the alumni group of the Forest High School Future Farmers of America posted a statement defending Brewton, saying he was a man "who would give everything" to make sure students were taken care of.
"He has always gone above and beyond his call of duty to ensure that his students had everything they needed. He has spent late nights, weekends and has provided around the clock support for his club and for his school," the statement read. "He is a man of faith and has always provided the wisdom and guidance needed for his students to succeed. He is a supporter of the agriculture industry and the FFA. The media is going to make this situation escalate to lengths that are unnecessary and we must stand together and focus on the facts."