A Florida teacher was placed on administrative leave after school officials were told that he had students help him drown wild raccoons during class.
A 14-second video published by WKMG-TV in Orlando show a group of students filling a big tub of water using a hose and later keeping a raccoon, which was inside a metal wire trap, submerged.
A mother told the TV station that her son, who shot the video, came home upset about what happened to the animals. The raccoons had reportedly been killing chickens that the students were raising for class.
Two raccoons and an opossum were killed Monday at Forest High School in Ocala, Fla., according to the mother, whom the station did not identify.
The teacher, Dewie Brewton, was placed on paid administrative leave with pay Tuesday while the school investigates, said Kevin Christian, spokesman for Marion County Public Schools.
Christian said he couldn’t comment further, saying only that Brewton was placed on leave as part of standard protocol and that school officials did not have issues with Brewton in the past 34 years he has worked on and off for the district.
It’s unclear if the incident involved any criminal acts, but law enforcement officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are also investigating. A spokesman said the agency “takes these matters seriously.”
According to the agency’s website, wildlife animals that are considered a nuisance can be caught using live traps, snares or firearms during daylight hours and where they’re allowed.
Animals “must be released legally or euthanized humanely within 24 hours of capture or trap inspection,” according to the agency.
In the interview with the WKMG, the mother said the incident made her “sick to my stomach.”
“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,” she told WKMG.
Brewton is an adviser of the school’s Future Farmers of America club.
In a statement posted Tuesday on Facebook, the club’s alumni group defended Brewton, describing him as a teacher who worked hard for his students and who cared for the agriculture industry.
“We would like to say that we are 100 percent behind our advisor and everything he does for our children/students. This is a man who would give everything he had to make sure that his children/students are taken care of,” the Forest High School FFA Alumni Chapter said.
“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 chapter also criticized coverage of the incident, saying the media will “escalate” the situation “to lengths that are unnecessary.”
“We must focus on all of the extremely positive and life changing things that this man has done for the people,” the group said. “We must show our support for him in this time of need and show that we are one.”
People who commented on the Facebook post also came to Brewton’s defense, saying such actions were necessary to protect farms and keep livestock alive.
“This man’s reputation and livelihood are threatened by those who know nothing about the ag business,” one commenter wrote.
“Raccoons are not cute little furry creatures. They are very destructive and dangerous. They can be rabid and you can be overrun with them in a short time.”
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This article was originally published by The Washington Post.