Martin County superintendent recommends principal reassigned for rest of year

Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 6:00 PM EST
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Martin County School District Superintendent Michael Maine is recommending South Fork High School Principal Dr. Timothy Aitken to be reassigned to district headquarters for the rest of the school year for “misconduct in office, incompetency.”

At the start of the school year, there were three incidents where students at the school were suspected or discovered with nicotine vape devices.

According to a Sheriff’s Office report, the students were taken to an area where they were asked to drop their pants.

In September, he was reassigned as part of what’s being called a “professional standards” investigation.

At the time, the Martin County Sheriff told WFLX there was questionable behavior in this case, but no criminality, and that the school resource deputy was not involved in the initial searches.

On Monday, the school district released its own internal investigation.

A letter from the superintendent said the principal engaged in “misconduct in office, incompetency, and willful neglect of duty.”

“We go through a process to determine what the facts are," district spokeswoman Jennifer DeShazo said. "What are the facts of what took place. Does it support what was alleged? Does it not support what was alleged? That’s what happened here."

The district found that Aitken was present for one of the searches where a student said he was told to drop his pants.

That student told the investigator that he didn’t remember who told him to take off his pants but added, "I’ve been searched at school before and it was not like that. So was that wrong? No one will tell me."

The student confirmed Aitken was in the room when the search occurred.

The superintendent’s letter added he felt Aitken was “less than truthful in the information you provided to investigators."

"There were violations of not only school board policy but also Florida educator professional conduct principals," DeShazo said.

WFLX reached out to Aitken and his attorney. They did not reply to us directly, but we obtained an email, and other correspondence Aitken sent to the district after he received the district’s investigation..

In them, Aitken said the proposed consequences are a personal and baseless attack and that he is completely innocent.

He claims never to have seen the student without their pants on.

There are also electronic notations made in the investigative report, refuting the allegations.

The district is standing by its findings.

“We ultimately at the end of the day want to do everything possible to protect students and let families know that we are holding our employees to the highest levels of integrity that is expected of them by the school district and the state of Florida," DeShazo said.

Beyond the yearlong reassignment for the principal, three other school employees, an assistant principal, the dean of student services and the teacher who also participated in the searches, face discipline ranging from letters of reprimand to reporting violations to the state Department of Education to reassignment.

Again, there were no criminal charges.

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