South Florida school whistleblower needs police protection
TALLAHASSEE – It’s been said that doing the right thing often comes at a cost. For one South Florida public school employee turned whistleblower, that cost just might be his job. Or worse, his safety.
When Trevor Colestock, an award-winning librarian at Miami Norland Senior High School, caught wind of a school cheating incident, he did what the state ethics code and school rules required him to do. He reported it.
But that ruffled more than a few feathers.
Police and District officials met Colestock on Thursday morning at the Miami school and escorted him back to his car out of concern for his well-being.
The trouble started in late August when a Miami-Dade Public Schools inspector general’s report substantiated Colestock’s cheating allegations.
According to the report, students were allowed to cheat on a computerized test designed to prepare students for quality employment after graduation. The report further notes the school received a higher evaluation grade that may have led to performance pay bonuses.
“The IG found that numerous students were provided with a cheat sheet or were allowed to use study guides to pass the Photoshop and/or Dreamweaver certification exams,” the report said.
Not long after, Colestock received a letter from the Miami-Dade Public Schools informing him of a potential involuntary transfer.
When asked if he was going to leave his post as the school’s library media specialist, Colestock told Florida Watchdog, “I’m not the problem. Problem teachers are supposed to transferred.”
Fearing retaliation, the two other whistleblowing teachers named in the report either retired or voluntarily transferred.
Florida Watchdog contacted the Florida Department of Education for comment regarding a recent performance grant given to the school. The department press secretary said in an email that the IG report had been reviewed and the school grade had been recalculated.
“The grade remained an ‘A’ and is entitled to School Recognition Program funding,” the spokesperson said.
Colestock, an elected school union steward, had union charges filed against him in the aftermath of the IG report. Those charges were eventually dropped due to a lack of probable cause.
Colestock then became the subject of a civil rights complaint filed the teacher implicated in the IG report. The complaint alleges discrimination and harassment. After meeting with a District official, the complaint was dropped.
Earlier this year, Colestock voiced concerns about insufficient training for district teachers and the false reporting by the district that ensued. Those concerns were also validated by a state Auditor General’s report.
“People need to see that their union stewards can report violations and stay on and thrive without the fear of retaliation,” said Colestock. “Nothing should happen to anybody if they speak up.”
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