Activist teacher on leave for harassing FFA students

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OCALA, FL – Thomas Roger Allison Jr., 53, was one of Marion County’s star teachers in 2016. But the Horizon Academy at Marion Oak Science teacher is now unpaid leave after calling Future Farmers of America (FFA) students “murderers.”

Reports of the the former teacher-of-the-year nominee bullying and harassing FFA students who raised livestock for slaughter reached the School District. This lead to Superintendent of Schools Heidi Maier’s investigation and recommendation.

In her recommendation, Maier writes that Allison “has engaged in a repeated, egregious pattern of mistreating, ridiculing, insulting, intimidating, embarrassing, bullying and abusing FFA students, crushing their dreams and causing them to feel that they must discontinue FFA activities in order to enjoy a peaceful school environment.”  Maier calls for terminating Allison.

Allison is accused of telling FFA students, “When the animals’ throats are being slit, they are calling out your names, asking why you are not coming to save them,” referring to animals they raised and subsequently sold at the Southeastern Youth Fair.

Allison, a self-proclaimed animal rights activist, has reportedly been active at the school in other ways.  Reports that he harassed the FFA teacher adviser and encouraged his honors science students to harass the FFA students indicate he appears to be on a quest to end the school’s agriculture program.

Maier also says Allison has made it hard for FFA students to get good grades in his class and that he told district investigators that he would continue to speak out against animal slaughter.

“I deny these allegations,” said Allison, who will remain on unpaid leave pending a school board hearing . “I love working in Marion County and love my students. I will fight for my job.”

Although known for his “wacky” project assignments, Allison had launched one of the nation’s best aquaponics gardens. Yet Horizon’s FFA adviser told investigators that Allison “encourages his aquaponics students to disrespect the FFA students and herself when the aquaponics students are in her room.”

Maier’s 10-day investigation looked at dozens of accusations from teachers, students and parents, culminating in a very negative report that Maier says warrants Allison’s termination.

Some of the findings in the report include:

  • Agricultural teacher Donna Lavery says FFA students have come to her crying, stating that Allison called them murderers.
  • Allison told students that he was obtaining an agriculture certification in order to take Lavery’s job and stop the animal projects.
  • Allison purchased one FFA student’s lamb, named Buddy, placed it in an animal sanctuary, then used his personal blog to post that “the lamb was happy that he was going to the sanctuary.”
  • All students interviewed concurred that Allison spends class time sharing his opinions about animal slaughter.

“In sum, Allison created a harmful educational environment, which created animosity among students, parents, other teachers and members of the community,” the report states.

The sanctuary that “Buddy” went to supports Allison’s conduct. “The teacher did not only save Buddy’s life, but he is teaching kids one of the most important lessons in life: compassion,” the site stated. “The school already has an amazing gardening program and Buddy’s friend (Allison) is working hard on ending the animal agriculture program so that no animals have to die.”

But the student who raised the lamb “was very upset about what transpired,” according to district investigators.  They say Allison’s actions “took away the pride she felt at her accomplishment.”

The report says Allison continued his “bizarre and reprehensible conduct” after being made aware of the investigation.  It says due to his continued behavior, he fails in his “obligation not to harass or discriminate against any student and to make every reasonable effort to protect students from harassment and discrimination.”

Allison will be represented by Clearwater attorney Mark Herdman at his school board hearing.

In December, Allison posted a video of himself all decked out in a tutu for a mock wedding to a pig.


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