A Florida educator is accused of stealing nearly $1,000 from a child with disabilities.
Edward John Abernathy, 50, principal of Connerton Elementary School in Land O’Lakes, was arrested on Nov. 8 and charged with grand theft, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
A copy of the police report obtained by HuffPost alleges a 9-year-old boy with a mental disability brought $2,100 of his parents’ money with him to school on Oct. 23. When a teacher realized the child was carrying the large sum, she collected it and notified school administrators, authorities said.
Abernathy was absent from school the day the discovery was made, so the assistant principal counted the money in front of witnesses before placing it in the principal’s office, according to the police report.
Authorities allege Abernathy returned the following day and told his staff “he would take care of the situation.”
On Oct. 26, the parents of the child learned he had taken the money without their knowledge and the boy’s mother went to collect it.
“The principal handed a wad of money to the child’s mother,” according to the police report. “As the mother was walking to her vehicle, she counted the money and learned she was only given $1,200.”
When the mother contacted her son’s teacher, she was told the assistant principal had counted the money and verified it amounted to $2,100. She was also allegedly told that Abernathy had counted again the following day. Concerned about the discrepancy, the parents filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office.
Questioned by police on Nov. 8, Abernathy allegedly denied counting the money himself and made “multiple inconsistent statements.” Police said the principal claimed he had hidden the money in a speaker in his office and said it was possible a student took it. When an investigator pointed out the speaker was on a shelf that was about 6 feet high, Abernathy allegedly admitted it would have been “a bit of a reach” for an elementary school student.
Abernathy, whose salary is $91,112, according to the Tampa Bay Times, was booked into the Land O’Lakes Detention Center and freed after posting $2,000 bail. He’s since been placed on paid administrative leave, pending a review of the allegations by the school district, the media outlet reported.
It was unclear Tuesday whether Abernathy had retained an attorney.