(The Center Square) – A recent report from the Florida Auditor General revealed that the Lake County District School Board failed to comply with state law when reporting complaints against employees.
Florida law requires that a school district file in writing any legally sufficient complaints against district administrators and teachers within 30 days to the Florida Department of Education once the complaint has come to the district’s attention.
According to the audit report, during fiscal 2022-23, 10 legally sufficient complaints were made against district teachers and administrators, alleging that the health, safety and welfare of students had been adversely affected.
Closer scrutiny of the complaints found that six of them had lapsed past the 30-day deadline to be reported to FDOE — ranging from 10 days to 126 days — averaging around 39 days after the complaint had been brought to the district’s attention.
In response, the school board said that investigations into complaints sometimes took longer than the expected 30 days because of various circumstances like the availability of witnesses, timing of school breaks and law enforcement involvement.
However, the AG pointed out that the district is legally required to report the complaints, effective from when the district is made aware of them.
The report further stated that the district had failed to demonstrate that appropriate action had been taken to promote student and staff safety, limiting the state Department of Education’s ability to monitor complaints.
The report also noted that the district was allocated $2.3 million for fiscal 2022-23 to establish or expand state-required mental health care services and related training. School districts are required to provide at least 5 hours of instruction for students from 6th to the 12th grade.
According to the report, as of June 28, 2023, there were still 1,413 school personnel who had not yet completed the training and 3,792 students had not received mental health awareness and assistance training.
The district stated in response that training had not been provided because of the high turnover in certified trainers, a lack of accountability at schools and student absenteeism.
The AG recommended that the district enhance procedures to ensure compliance with state law, including filing complaints within the 30-day period to FDOE, ensuring all staff receives mental health awareness and assistance training and that students receive the related instruction annually for at least 5 hours.