Where teacher's aides were when student drowned

2:27 AM, Nov 14, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida -- It's taken nearly three weeks, but Tuesday afternoon new details were released in the death of 11-year-old Jennifer Caballero. The sixth grader wandered away from Rodgers Middle School and drowned on school property. 

No criminal charges are going to be filed, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, which released a nearly 800-page long report on the case.

In the report, aides and teachers explain where they were when Caballero slipped out of sight. Shawn Livingston,
the Assistant Principal at the school, told detectives there were four coaches and six aides in the gym when Jenny went missing.

Gym coach Garry Gawrych, also called "Coach G",  explained to detectives he was working with a group of special needs students in wheelchairs when a student came over to tell him Jenny was heading under the bleachers.

The coach told detectives, "I went over and I pulled her out from under the bleachers, and 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."

He says those two aides were Patsy Henderson and Patricia Tobin.

But the coach says one to two minutes later, Henderson yelled out , "Jenny's gone. Jenny's missing."

The coach says he searched classrooms in a different building and then outside "running everywhere."

Gawrych told detectives with his attorney by his side, "This has happened where I've gone out and chased her and I ... I thought I was right behind her and I was running."

He said it's something he'd done with Jenny three or four times.

But there were six aides in charge of watching those 24 special needs students, including Jenny. According to the sheriff's office report, one of those aides, Terrance Sowa, left the P.E. class to take a smoke break. A man answered the door at his home Tuesday, but didn't want to talk to us.

Another aide, Catherine Seely, was walking a student back and forth to the office when Jenny slipped out, according to the report.

There were more than 100 other students in the gym at the time, and Gawrych said he didn't find out that Jenny's lifeless body was found in 12 feet of water in a pond behind the school on school property until he made it home and saw it on the news.

He told detectives "I just sat there."

The new student he'd only had in his class for about six weeks was found dead just a few hundred feet away from the school's gym. Somehow she managed to scale a 4-foot fence without anyone being able to stop her. Divers from the sheriff's office found her body about five hours after she went missing.

Gawrych told the detective, "I want everybody to know that I really loved that girl." He's been a teacher for 26 years and has spent 17 of those years in Hillsborough. After the drowning of Caballero he consulted with his pastor. He says, "We were in prayer for the family and , just going through scripture and he was helping me."

When he was asked if there was anythings that could've been done better. Coach Gawrych answered, "Aides who will pay attention."

Meanwhile MaryEllen Elia, the superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools has asked two different groups to investigate - their Office of Professional Standards and the ESE superintendent advisory committee that's made up of parents, community agency members and district ESE personnel.

The superintendent says they have 10 days to turn in their findings about whether any employees should be disciplined and whether any policies or procedures need to be changed.

Still some say the investigations aren't enough. Several protestors demonstrated inside and outside the Hillsborough County School district main building Tuesday. Joe Robinson said, "I feel that this is a civil rights violation - these were disabled students and their rights have been violated."

Ryan McFarland was also in the gym at the time. He is a Physical Education teacher for 6th graders.

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