Florida teacher accused of drowning raccoons and opossum in class

OCALA, Florida — School Superintendent Heidi Maier is recommending that the Forest High School agri-science teacher who enlisted students to help him drown two nuisance raccoons and an opossum be fired.

"Marion County Public Schools is appalled" by teacher Dewie Brewton's actions, the school district said in a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon. "Marion County's education standards — in fact, Florida's education standards — do not include activities for the destruction of live animals, nuisance or not. While law enforcement determines whether this teacher's actions were legal or not, his actions before students are entirely unacceptable and cause us great concern."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating. So is the Florida Department of Health.

"Regardless of the investigative outcomes, Superintendent Dr. Heidi Maier is recommending termination," the district statement says. The School Board will have the final say.

Brewton, who has been the school's FFA leader since 2006, was put on paid leave Tuesday. He is accused of drowning an opossum and two raccoons that were suspected of killing a chicken that his students were raising at the school.

A 14-second video, first released by WKMG-Channel 6 news in Orlando, has surfaced on web pages of many news outlets nationwide. The video shows students pouring water into large garbage cans, getting ready to kill the animals.

The raccoons, which had been caught in wire traps, were lowered into the water-filled cans.


The mother of a Forest freshman contacted authorities after her son came home Monday and told her what happened. The woman, whose name was not released, told Channel 6 that her son was upset.

"The raccoons tried to come up for air. (The teacher and students) had metal rods and they held them down with metal rods and when the raccoon would try to pop its head up they held water hoses in its face to drown it," the mother told Channel 6.

The Forest High School FFA Alumni Chapter came out in support of Brewton.

"He has always gone above and beyond his call of duty to ensure that his students had everything they needed," the chapter wrote on its Facebook page. "He has spent late nights, weekends and has provided around the clock support for his club and for his school."

The chapter calls Brewton "a man who would give everything he had to make sure that his children/students are taken care of."

The majority of comments on social media are far less positive. Dozens of comments on the Star-Banner's Facebook posting of the story state that Brewton was cruel.

"Isn't there enough violence in schools?" local resident Karen Black asked in a Facebook post, which the Star-Banner is quoting with her permission. "Now we're going to torture animals? How does that teach kids to treat humans with respect? Sickening."

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's website, "live-captured nuisance wildlife must be released legally or euthanized humanely within 24 hours of capture or trap inspection."

For guidance on legal release, the website says:

"Native nuisance wildlife may be released on the property of the landowner where captured provided the release site and capture site are located on one contiguous piece of property. Native nuisance wildlife may be released off the capture site if the release site is a minimum of 40 contiguous acres, located in the same county as the capture site, and the person releasing the nuisance wildlife has in their possession written permission from the landowner of the release site allowing release on their property. Nuisance wildlife may not be released on federal, state, county, local or private lands without written permission of the landowner."

For guidance on allowable euthanasia, the agency links to the Report of the American Veterinary Medical Association Panel on Euthanasia. That document includes drowning on its list of unacceptable primary methods of euthanasia.