Florida professor accused of abusing students for decades, including calling a biracial student a ‘mutt’
A teacher in Florida has been accused of harassing students, making racist comments and launching personal attacks, some of which occurred decades ago.
Todd Harvey, who teaches social studies at Wharton High in Tampa, has an extensive file of complaints against him, including accusations that he used a Nazi salute toward a German student in class and called biracial student Melanie Copeland a “mutt.”
Harvey, who still managed to keep his job despite allegations of abuse, was described as a “fickle white male” at Hillsborough County Public Schools, where he has taught students of color since the late 1990s.
‘I understand that it is not uncommon for this man to make students cry.’ wrote a parent in 1999.
The Tampa Bay Times recently published a report detailing sexual harassment at the local Hillsborough County High School, prompting a former biracial student to contact the newspaper about Harvey’s behavior towards his family.
Accusations have been made against Tampa teacher Todd Harvey that he taunted Black, Latino and gay students in his classroom for more than 20 years.
“I thought I was the only one who had a serious problem with Hillsborough County trying to sweep things under the rug,” said Melanie Copeland (pictured). What she didn’t realize was that both her teachers and her parents had been complaining about Harvey since before she was born.
Harvey taught social studies at Wharton High School in Tampa, Florida.
The report cataloged at least 23 allegations of misconduct against Harvey, ranging from making inappropriate comments toward students to making overtly racist gestures.
The document also found that some incidents were not documented by school administrators, which would be a violation of district policy.
The school district declined to provide details on specific examples, citing student privacy laws, but the Tampa Bay Times managed to document those known to have been reported to school administrators.
Harvey wanted to know what Copeland listed as his career on government forms.
He told her that she should put ‘mutt’.
“I thought I was the only one who had a serious problem with Hillsborough County trying to sweep things under the rug,” Copeland told the Times. What she didn’t realize was that both her teachers and her parents had been complaining about Harvey since before she was born.
In August 1997, Harvey began working at Walker Middle School as an In-School Suspension Supervisor. The following year, he began working at Riverview High School, where he continued to supervise in-school suspension and also coached baseball.
Melanie Copeland reported a racist incident involving her teacher while at Wharton meHigh
On Monday night, Copeland posted on Instagram how her story was finally being heard.
Harvey, who taught social studies at Wharton High School, was never reprimanded or disciplined, though he was suspended without pay in 2015 for five days.
Harvey is accused of calling a biracial girl a “mutt,” giving a Nazi salute to a German student and using a metal pipe to break students’ desks if they fell asleep.
However, in September 1999, Riverview principal Vince Thompson emailed Harvey regarding a parent complaint about Harvey playing music in class. The principal had previously instructed Harvey to stop this behavior.
One student reported that Harvey regularly humiliated the students and made it difficult for them to concentrate because of the noise.
In December 1999, a parent filed a report saying that Harvey had shamed students with divorced parents and that his punishment style resembled bullying. Two months later, in February 2000, the same father claimed that Harvey expressed anger at the complaint and expressed hatred towards the father’s daughter.
In March of that same year, another parent reported that Harvey had called his daughter a “slut,” and a student said that Harvey told him that he planned to divorce his wife and marry her on his 21st birthday.
An investigation was launched and Harvey was reprimanded for his inappropriate comments. Principal Thompson warned Harvey that any further comments would result in a termination recommendation.
During a game against a Fort Myers school, a Riverview pitcher threw a ball at the head of an opposing player. The Fort Myers principal asked Coach Harvey if the pitch was intentional, but Harvey denied it. The following month, the Fort Myers principal reported that a Riverview parent had alleged that Harvey told the pitcher to hit the opposing player. It is unclear how that complaint was resolved.
Harvey has been described as a “fickle white male” who has taught in Hillsborough County Public Schools since the late 1990s.
The allegations against Harvey date back to 1999.
Harvey became a social studies teacher at Wharton High School in August 2000.
It was six years before Wharton principal George Gaffney chastised Harvey for allowing students to pay him to improve their grades and for inappropriate comments he made to students in September 2006.
Two years later, in October 2008, a parent informed Wharton’s new principal, Bradley Woods, that Harvey had initially refused to move a test for a student to observe a Jewish holiday. Harvey eventually relented, but the student missed out on additional material that appeared on the exam and received a grade of D on the exam.
A quieter period followed until October 2014, when a mother named Kathy Brothers complained that a German exchange student she was hosting had had a hard time in Harvey’s class.
The student claimed that Harvey called her “Germany” instead of her name and harassed her.
Brothers had previously reported that Harvey gave a Nazi salute to another German exchange student.
In November 2014, the district launched an investigation into Harvey’s treatment of the exchange student after Brothers reported that Harvey had retaliated by taunting the student in front of her peers.
Eight other students made various accusations against Harvey during the investigation, including taunting Latino students, insulting a transgender student, demeaning women, using inappropriate nicknames, and scaring students with a metal rod that would break into their desks if it were to come off. fell. asleep.
The investigation concluded in March 2015 with Harvey receiving a five-day suspension without pay.
He was warned that any further inappropriate interaction with students would result in his possible dismissal.
In December 2016, a professor informed Wharton Principal Woods after a student claimed to have scored high on a test in Harvey’s class because it matched the answer sheet he had provided.
An investigation was launched and Harvey received a written reprimand in February 2017 for violating Florida’s evidence laws. All of her students’ scores were invalidated.
Harvey is believed to still teach social studies at the Wharton school, although his name no longer appears on the school’s website.
In a statement on Harvey’s story, district spokeswoman Tanya Arja said complaints are typically handled at the school level, where issues may not be documented or reported to the district.
“Incidents involving Mr. Harvey have been investigated and progressive disciplinary action has been imposed on him,” Arja said.