Trial of Manatee High administrators begins with lurid accusations

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Posted: Monday, June 16, 2014 5:21 pm

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Three former Manatee High School administrators were in court today, accused of failing to report child abuse. The charges are connected to the case of Rod Frazier, the former Manatee High football coach accused of engaging in inappropriate behavior with female students and school staff.

The trial of Robert Gagnon, Matthew Kane and Gregg Faller began early this morning with those central to the case taking the stand. Among the group of teachers who testified, one says she witnessed and reported Frazier's inappropriate behavior.

"He would text some girls,” says Patricia Aragon, the language arts teacher at Manatee High School. “He would call me and ask to speak to them."

During her testimony, Aragon gave details about a conversation she says occurred between Frazier and a student in her class.

"I said ‘why did he call you,’ and she said ‘he wanted to know if I got my period yet,’” Aragon says. “My heart sunk because I had seen a lot of building up of inappropriate behavior with him, on campus and taking girls out [of class] behind closed doors, and it was a lot of this stuff and it built up …"

Aragon said she reported the incident to Robert Gagnon, one of the three administrators facing charges of failure to report child abuse stemming from the Frazier case. Aragon alleges no action was taken, but the defense attorney raised several questions with her story during cross examination.

"You did not make any conclusion in your mind, listening to this conversation between this young lady and Frazier, that the conversation appeared sexual in any way?” Asked Richard Reinhart, Gagnon’s attorney. “Yes, that's correct," Aragon responded.

In addition, the defense painted a picture that the teachers making the allegations were just as responsible to report any suspected abuse as the three administrators on trial.

"You are aware that if you have reasonable cause to believe that a student is having sexual relationships with a teacher or any other adult that you have a duty to report that?” Reinhart asked, netting a “yes” from Aragon in response.

“You did not call the Florida abuse hotline after Mr. Frazier's conversation with this young lady correct?” he then asked Aragon. “That's correct," she answered.

The defense says the reason the abuse hotline was not called is because no abuse occurred. But other key witnesses for the prosecution testified about even more inappropriate actions by Frazier, allegedly reported administrators but never acted upon.

The trial continues tomorrow.

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