OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Scott Leake learned late last week that he wouldn't get his teaching contract renewed at Osceola School for the Arts. The news stunned students who say he helped change lives.
"He made the students all feel comfortable, like they had somebody to talk to if they had something wrong in their life," senior student Lainie Bennett said.
Leake is a first-year drama and language arts teacher at the school, and he was under a probationary contract that faced renewal at the end of the school year. He said the principal called him into the office and told him he would be cut, with no explanation.
"I hadn't received any reprimands or anything. Nobody said, "You can't do this. You need to do this. This is very wrong, you might need to reconsider (or) we might have to reconsider your role here,' Nothing," Leake said.
Osceola Country administrators confirmed that Leake was let go, saying that it is the principal's discretion and doesn't require an explanation during the probation period.
The day after Leake told students he wouldn't return, they began to plan to get him back. At lunch Friday, more than 100 students staged a sit-in, silent protest. Students held signs and demanded that Leake retain his job.
"We didn't want to cause a rally, we didn't want to cause a riot because that's not what we were trying to do. We weren't mad at administration, we weren't against them. We just wanted our teacher," Bennett said.
Students also started a Twitter page at the handle @saveleake, and a change.org petition that has already gotten more than 200 signatures. Leake, who is married with three children, all of whom face medical challenges, said the job meant everything to him. It also provided health insurance during their crisis.
"It was hard, it was very heartbreaking," he said.
He applauds the students for taking a stand, even if it means he won't get his job back.
"I've always told them from the beginning of the year that they have a voice, and if they see something that is going wrong, or if they feel that they have been wronged, they have a right to stand up," he said.
Students said they plan to protest at the next school board meeting.