Custodian who stabbed himself at Pasco elementary school had mental health problems district knew of

8 On Your Side

School district says he was no threat

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Several parents of children who attend Connerton Elementary school in Land O’ Lakes are pretty upset.

First, they learned a custodian stabbed himself multiple times on Oct. 8.

Then they discovered he was rushed to the hospital last December because Connerton employees found he took several pills along with alcohol while sitting in a kindergarten class after school. The custodian was Baker Acted because, according to a Pasco deputy’s report, he threatened to hang himself.

8 On Your Side spoke with several parents, all of whom declined to be interviewed on camera for fear of retaliation against their children. They want to know why the school district thought it was okay to return the custodian to his job at Connerton near their children after the December incident.

Whose determination was it that the custodian was ready to return to work?

“Our Employee Relations Department worked with the appropriate officials to determine that,” Linda Cobbe, district spokesperson stated.

Pasco School District’s Linda Cobbe says Roarks never posed a threat

She added that confidentiality laws prevented her from commenting on what steps the district required him to complete before he returned to work.

Pasco did suspend him for three days.

Bodycam video of the Oct. 8 incident that 8 On Your Side obtained from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office reveals the custodian was both combative and apologetic, attempting to bite his rescuers and screaming, “kill me.”

“If that had happened at my child’s school, I would’ve been, what the heck?” Felicia Pecora, a security and violence prevention expert said.

Pecora questions the wisdom of placing the custodian back in the same environment where he took pills and alcohol.

“If there’s also substance abuse in addition to suicide, it raises the bar on what needs to happen. It’s certainly not anything that we can spend 3 days and then we’re good to go, you can’t do that,” explained Pecora.

Witnesses told Pasco deputies that the custodian was acting funny Oct. 8, so they escorted him to a maintenance bay away from children. He then pulled out a 6 to 10-inch knife and stabbed himself in the chest and stomach.

Linda Cobbe insists he never posed a threat to the children at school and that he was immediately detained by an armed security guard.

The sheriff’s video shows he remained so out of control deputies shackled his legs, then they handcuffed him to the stretcher before placing him in a rescue unit.

Parents have the same question that 8 On Your Side does – why was the custodian returned to a school setting instead of another location like the bus garage, or even the superintendent’s office?

“I actually don’t know the answer to that,” Linda Cobbe explained.

The custodian was taken to a hospital after he stabbed himself. He was treated for his wounds then Baker Acted because it was determined he was a threat to himself or others.

If you know of something that you think should be investigated, call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-338-0808 or contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com

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