The Franklin County School Board has terminated the employment of a paraprofessional who was accused in December of child abuse for allegedly tugging forcefully on a third grader’s hoodie.
By a 4-1 vote, with Pam Marshall opposed, the school board voted at its Feb. 28 regular meeting to fire Abbie Gail Shiver, 45, of Eastpoint, following her suspension without pay in the wake of the Dec. 4 incident in the Franklin County Schools cafeteria.
Shiver was charged on Dec. 6 with child abuse without great bodily harm, a third-degree felony. One week later, her Tallahassee attorneys Steven Dobson III and Cody Short filed a plea of not guilty and requested a jury trial in the courtroom of Circuit Judge Charles Dodson. Shiver’s next court appearance is slated for Tuesday afternoon, April 9.
At last month’s school board meeting, Marshall spoke out against the firing, which had been recommended by Superintendent Traci Moses. She noted that neither Shiver nor her attorneys were present at the school board meeting, and that notification of the proposed firing had not been signed for by Shiver or her attorneys.
Moses said she was advised by her attorney to send the notice by both regular and certified mail, as well as by FedEx, to the address on file in Shiver’s personnel file. She said the deliveries had been refused.
“We sent it four ways,” said Allison Chipman, a staffer in the human resources department. “We were asked to send it directly to her attorney and that’s where it was sent.”
Marshall continued to press the matter. “I’d like to see proof she was notified correctly,” she said. “Why aren’t they here to represent her?”
School Board Attorney Barbara Sanders said that not appearing at the school board member may have been deliberate.
“Maybe they’re making a strategic decision,” she said. “They make their decisions, they have their rationale I can only assume.’
Sanders said the school board’s decision to terminate would not be a final action, since Shiver could request a hearing before the Florida Department of Administrative Hearings for an administrative law judge to decide the merits of the dismissal.
“There’s more process after tonight. She will be requesting a DOAH hearing if the issue is that there wasn’t sufficient notice,” Sanders said.
“We already suspended her without pay, why not wait? This is somebody’s livelihood we’re deciding on,” said Marshall.
“You can’t leave her in suspension without pay forever,” said Sanders.
During the discussion of the motion to fire, made by George Thompson and seconded by Stacy Kirvin after he relinquished the gavel, Marshall raised questions about the validity of the evidence against Shiver.
“(This is based on) statements of four third-grade students,” she said. “Why did one staff member not notice what was going on?”
Thompson reminded his colleague that board members had to have just cause if they chose to overrule a superintendent’s recommendation.
“I don't personally feel like she’s guilty,” replied Marshall. “That’s my just cause.”
According to the probable cause affidavit that led to the filing of a criminal charge, School Resource Officer Brock Johnson said he was told Dec. 4 about the incident, which took place in the cafeteria the previous day.
The boy told law enforcement Shiver asked him to take off his hoodie, but he had not. “That is when Shiver pulled it off his head and choked him with it,” claimed the boy in the report.
The report said the incident was witnessed by another school employee, who said when she noticed Shiver taking the hoodie off, “(the boy) was trying to pull away from her, but she (the witness) couldn’t determine if he was being choked or not.
“(The employee) says that after what she thought was around one minute, that Shiver let go of (the boy’s) hoodie and helped him take it off,” read the report.
The employee told law enforcement she noticed red marks around the boy’s neck after Shiver walked away, marks that were also observed by the culinary arts teacher as well as by Shelley Miedona, the assistant principal, according to the affidavit.
Moses said students often wear hoodies to school during cold weather, which is allowed, but that school policy treats the hoods on these garments like any other hat, which cannot be worn inside of the buildings.
After Johnson, and Capt. Gary Martina, reviewed video of the incident, a warrant for Shiver’s arrest on the felony charge was issued. She turned herself in and was released on $1,000 bond.
Initially hired by the school district as a substitute in Sept. 2005, Shiver became a paraprofessional in Feb. 2015. To qualify for hiring as a para, there is no course requirement, but individuals must pass an up to three-hour exam.