Hillsborough County school district begins internal investigation into Jennifer Caballero's drowning

8:03 PM, Nov 14, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida -- A Hillsborough school district investigation is underway into the accidental drowning of a middle school student with down syndrome.

An investigation by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said no one will be criminally charged. School district officials said the five aides suspended with pay reported to the Office of Professional Standards for interviews today. But according to the investigation by the sheriff's office, at least one school employee seems to hold the aides responsible.

Physical Education Coach Gary Gawrych told investigators 11-year-old Jennifer Caballero was an active child. On October 22, he said he had to pull her out from underneath the bleachers and take her back to the aides.

He said, "I stood her up and I put her right in front of where the aides were right there and I said to the two of them to keep their eye on her."

Within minutes, Jennifer disappeared and the search was on. Five hours later, deputies found her body in a retention pond on school property.

Coach Gawrych said Jennifer would regularly run out of the gym. He recalls her doing so on at least three to four different occasions. "I'd chase her into the hallways," he said.

Gawrych told investigators two weeks before Jennifer's disappearance he complained to the assistant principal about the aides being "inattentive." On October 16, he wrote an email saying, "[The assistant principal] needed to speak to the aides."

Gawrych told detectives, "I was concerned for the kids ... I can't say day-to-day they did their job."

Toward the end of the 45-minute interview, the detective asked Gawrych, "Is there something that could've been done differently?"

Gawrych replied, "Aides who will pay attention."

Hillsborough County School Superintendent MaryEllen Elia has launched a workgroup to review district procedures regarding special needs students. That report should be ready by the beginning of December. But district officials won't commit to a date for completing its internal investigation into the Rodgers Middle School drowning, saying they want to make sure it's thorough.

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