An online petition is demanding the firing of a Florida teacher who has faced a flood of complaints over 25 years — including for allegedly throwing a Nazi salute at a German pupil and calling a biracial girl a “mutt.”
“Todd Harvey is a serial abuser with more than 20 documented offenses toward minors in the classroom,” a Change.org petition says of the longtime teacher at Wharton High School in Tampa.
“He is a homophobic, racist, misogynistic, person who should not be a teacher at all.
“His immediate termination is demanded on behalf of parents and students,” claims the petition, signed by nearly 350 people by Tuesday.
It also calls for a “thorough investigation” by school officials and law enforcement into the disturbing history of complaints first revealed in an exposé by the Tampa Bay Times.
The paper obtained district records that showed there had been at least 23 complaints of alleged misconduct since he started teaching in 1997.
He was once suspended without pay for five days for making racially insensitive “disparaging” comments and also reprimanded for letting students pay him to boost their grades.
“I understand it is not uncommon for this man to reduce students to tears,” one parent complained as far back as 1999, the paper noted.
Officials threatened to fire him at least twice but instead allowed him to keep teaching — with one pupil complaining his classes feel “barbaric,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The complaints included sexually inappropriate comments, with Harvey allegedly calling one girl “slutty” and telling another he’d marry her when she turned 21, the report said. Harvey called the “slutty” comment a joke he regretted.
Harvey also told pupils that gay couples should be forbidden from marrying in church, and that women belonged at home and not the workplace, according to the paper.
He also allegedly said that girls with “thunder thighs” shouldn’t wear shorts, singling out pupils.
Other complaints included for mocking Latino pupils, saying they were hairy and ate rice and beans — and refusing to call a German exchange student anything but “Germany.”
After a complaint from another German student, Harvey admitted performing a Nazi salute in class, but claimed it was part of a lesson on the Holocaust, according to the report.
A principal once conceded that ” everyone” knew Harvey got a pitcher on the baseball team to deliberately hit an opposing player in the head. Harvey denied it.
The last record of a complaint was in February 2017, when he was reprimanded for “unprofessional conduct” for helping kids cheat on a test. Their scores were invalidated.
However, many others detailed complaints not logged.
Melanie Copeland told the Tampa Bay Times that Harvey once asked how she marked her race on government forms because she is biracial — alleging that he told her in the class that she should put “mutt.”
She was so upset her mom eventually pulled her out of the school district.
Others also accused Harvey of bullying a transgender pupil who died by suicide, with police saying the pupil had been upset by a debate with Harvey that day.
A friend told the paper that the teacher tormented the vulnerable pupil by saying he looked like a “psychopath” and a school shooter.
Several pupils say they demanded an investigation into whether the comments played a part in the pupil’s death, but the records do not make mention of the requests or an inquiry, the paper said.
School bullying expert Nan Stein said the complaints amounted to
one of the most egregious patterns of behavior she’d seen.
“This is just astonishing,” Stein said.
Harvey did not respond to repeated efforts to reach him for comment, the Tampa Bay Times said. Bradley Woods, the principal for much of Harvey’s time at the high school, also did not respond to messages.
District spokesperson Tanya Arja said she could not comment on specific incidents because of student privacy laws. She indicated district records differed from the paper’s reporting, without providing details.
“Incidents involving Mr. Harvey were investigated, and he was disciplined in a progressive manner,” Arja said.
The Change.org petition said it was “important” to “protect our kids from people who get pleasure from bullying and harassing teenagers who are transitioning from kids to young adults.”
“There are already long-lasting effects as a result of his actions from 1997 to today, please don’t let any more children be hurt,” it said.