Oviedo HS substitute's gift for student leads to firing over 'inappropriate relationship'

Teacher says he had no ill-intent in buying graduation gift for student

OVIEDO, Fla. – A long-term Spanish substitute teacher, Juan Gomez, was pulled out of his classroom and fired on the spot after school officials say he had an "inappropriate relationship" with a student.

"School administration felt there were things that weren't quite appropriate in the student/teacher relationship," said Seminole County School Spokesperson, Michael Lawrence. "I am aware of some gifts that were involved, but I do not have specifics as to what those were."

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Gomez told News 6 he recently bought a pendant for a student as a graduation gift, but said nothing else happened from there.

"It was never my intent to make anyone feel uncomfortable," Gomez told News 6. "It was just a graduation present, like 'Have a good life, you are a great person, you are nice'."

Now some students are coming to his support, starting a #freegomez campaign on social media.

"Mr. Gomez is not like that," said student Dylan Permenter. "He is a very respectable man and would never touch anybody like that."

However, some students feel the gift went too far.

"It's weird, she's underage and he's doing things like that," student TJ Woodard said.

Gomez says in hindsight he sees what he did was a mistake and is asking the school district for a second chance. He says his two children, who are both autistic, go to Oviedo High School as well and says a part-time job there was the perfect set-up to take care of them. Now he's out of a job.

"I was just trying to be a good teacher, make the classroom comfortable, enjoyable fun so they can learn Spanish," Gomez said. "To the county, to the school, to the staff, to the principal, I'm sorry, I didn't mean for any of this to be blown out of proportion."

School officials say Gomez's  case is a different as it didn't involve a full investigation first, like would happen if it was a full-time contracted teacher.

"Because it's a substitute, if a school determines they're not comfortable with an individual, they're not obligated in any way to allow them to continue as they're not on any sort of contract to do so," Lawrence added.

Officials also add this is the first time Gomez had any disciplinary issues with the school.

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