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School District Missed and Ignored Long List of Serious Problems With Youth Center Employee

| April 24, 2013

The sum total of Shannon Diamond's admission of previous charges or arrests on his employee application in 2006. It was a gross understatement.

The sum total of Shannon Diamond’s admission of previous charges or arrests on his employee application in 2006. It was a gross understatement.

Update: The Flagler County School Board fired Shannon Diamond at its May 7, 2013, meeting. Related stories here and here.

Sunday morning, Shannon Diamond, the assistant director at the Flagler County Youth Center, was arrested for the second time in 13 months for drunkenly behavior: he was charged with disorderly intoxication, theft and resisting arrest following an ugly incident at McCharacters, the Palm Coast bar at St. Joe’s Plaza. In March 2012, he’d been charged with DUI, found guilty, and served six months’ probation.

He was given another chance last year by the school district, which runs the youth center on the campus of Flagler Palm Coast High School, under the direction of Cheryl Massaro and whoever is the principal at the high school (three have supervised Diamond: Nancy Willis, Jacob Oliva and Lynette Shott.)

Shannon Diamond

Shannon Diamond

But it wasn’t a second chance that the district was giving Diamond last year. Had the district properly conducted a criminal background check, had it verified Diamond’s own statements about his criminal background on his application, had it noticed that he had lied and left vast portions of that record unspoken, and had it taken not of its own documentation of two elementary school principals raising issues with Diamond as a substitute teacher, before his employment at the youth center—including, in one case, Diamond telling a 5th grader to “get out of my face”—Diamond’s history with the district might not have stretched as long.

That Diamond remained with the district despite a record, both internal and external, that the district could easily verify, raises questions about the thoroughness of the district’s background-check system. Diamond is currently on paid leave pending a review of his status by the district, which entails due process proceedings that apply to any employee facing disciplinary or criminal issues. A review of his employee and criminal record produced the following history.

Cursory Background Check

In late summer in 2006, Diamond, now  32, applied to be a substitute teacher in the district.

When an employee or contractor is hired to work with the Flagler County school district, the individual must be fingerprinted and pass a criminal background check. Diamond paid the required $61 to process the documentation and was fingerprinted on Aug. 2, 2006. On Aug. 10, the district indicated that “results have been received,” but even though the results are a public record, those results are not in Diamond’s file. Diamond was “cleared to work,” a document states, with a mere “x” next to the clearance.

The document is accompanied by a one-sheet check-list of “steps completed” during the background check. Six steps are listed. There is a checkmark only next to the first one: “Reviewed and evaluated the nature, recency and number of arrest(s)/conviction (s) in relation to the duties that are to be performed by the employee.”

The document was signed by Harriett Holiday, the district’s director of human resources.

By the absence of checkmarks next to the next five verification criteria, the document shows that there was no consideration of “the applicant’s truthfulness in admitting previous arrests/convictions.” No references of prior employment history were obtained or reviewed. No court documents evaluating the arrest records “and any document reflecting action of the court” were obtained or reviewed. No “verbal explanation and/or written explanation from employee of the events of the arrest(s) [or] conviction(s)” were obtained or reviewed.

There was only one other checkmark on the sheet, next to the line: “The aforementioned employee can begin employment with the system.”

Mischaracterizing a Criminal History

Yet in his application, Diamond had himself circled “yes” six times to questions pertaining to his arrests and convictions on criminal offenses. But he also lied.

The application requires the applicant to explain every “yes” answered on the sheet—not just convictions, but charges, too: where arrested, date, nature of the charges, level of the charges, and final disposition. Diamond listed only a 1999 arrest on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, stating “adjudication withheld” on final disposition.

It was a gross understatement.

In all, Diamond’s Marion County record shows seven cases with misdemeanor charges, and one with a felony, between 1999 and 2005. Diamond did not note a 1999 case reflecting his arrest on two charges of retail petit theft, with a guilty verdict on one of the charges and adjudication withheld on the other, and a sentence of 28 days in jail. It does not list DUI and reckless driving charges in 2002 that led to an acquittal on both charges. (That he was acquitted did not dispense him of noting on his employment application that he had been charged.) He does not list a battery charge in 2002 that was eventually dropped, or a failure to appear charge (even though he circled “No” when asked if he had ever failed to appear for a court proceeding).

He did not list an aggravated battery felony charge, which was also eventually dropped. He did not list a resisting an officer charge in 2000, for which he was also found guilty (a first degree misdemeanor) in 2000. And he does not list a marijuana possession charge in 2000, for which adjudication was withheld, and over which he spent 26 days in jail.  He was found guilty of disorderly conduct in 2001, and had a suspended sentence of two months in jail for disorderly conduct on an April 2001 charge.

Diamond, in his application, only explained the one disorderly conduct issue: “I was 19 years old and it happened before I went to college in 2001. I was young and made a bad decision. I went on to play 4 years of basketball and improve myself.”

On Sept. 5, 2006, Holiday signed a recommendation for Diamond to be a substitute teacher.

Students in the Flagler County school district, of course, are routinely expelled for behavior less serious.

A Problematic Substitute Teacher

The document showed that the district had contacted only one reference on Diamond’s behalf, and none that Diamond had worked for. The reference the district contacted was Hugh Lewis, who was listed as having been a principal at the school for the blind and deaf in St. Augustine. But Lewis had never supervised him. Diamond listed three other references that had supervised him. The district did not contact them.

Holiday’s recommendation for employment includes a comment section that should reflect the substance of the discussion between district staff and the person making a recommendation on a prospective employee’s behalf. Only one word appears in the comment section after the discussion with Lewis: “Recommend!”

Diamond listed three other references, each of whom had supervised him—at Flagler College, at a furniture store and at Sears (the latter two where he’d worked briefly, in summer jobs), with their phone numbers. None were contacted.

On Dec. 21, 2006, Cathy Shopovick, the executive secretary at Bunnell Elementary school, sent an email marked “importance: high” to district personnel that read: “Shannon Diamond subbed for us Mon-Wed. this week. We would like him to not be called in the future to sub here!” The email was added to Diamond’s file.

Five months later, after Diamond subbed at Rymfire Elementary, that school’s principal, Paula St. Francis, sent the following email about Diamond to Harriett Holiday, the district’s human resources director: “We have a sub, Mr. Diamond, in our school who according to my staff has been on his cell all day long, has been watching sports?, playing computer games, sitting with his feet on the desk, wearing shorts to teach 5th grade, and told a very responsible student yesterday to ‘get out of my face.’ We also had 1 parent call and refuse to send their child to school today because of him. Please do not send him to RES anymore.”

State Denies Certification

In May 2008, Diamond was seeking a temporary certification from the Department of Education. The Flagler district’s human resources department forwarded the request to the state, asking if state officials needed any additional information to process the application. “This file has been referred to Professional Practice Services (PPS) due to having a criminal background,” the state’s Bureau of Educator Certification staff replied on May 13 that year. “We are waiting for clearance to proceed with this file.”

The state, apparently more thorough with its background checks than the district, had requested further documentation from Diamond. “To date,” the state wrote Diamond in September, “the Office of Professional Practices Services has not received the requested information; therefore, this office is closing your file. Your statement of eligibility and pending application for a Florida Educator Certificate are invalid.”

Youth Center Assistant Director

By then, Diamond had been hired as the assistant director at the youth center. Center director Cheryl Massaro had recommended his appointment in a July 2007 memo. For Diamond’s background, Massaro was relying on Diamond’s existing paperwork, application and background check, in his employee file: “Shannon currently has a complete job application on file with the district, including finger prints,” Massaro wrote. Of course, the file was anything but complete, though Massaro had no way of knowing that—and when interviewed this week, was not aware of Diamond’s prior record of arrests in Marion County.

Several performance evaluations signed by Massaro and Nancy Willis, who was the principal at Flagler Palm Coast High School and also Diamond’s supervisor until, 2010, gave Diamond above-average—but not exceptional—reviews.

Under the question, “What are your beliefs about the importance of education?” Diamond wrote: “I want to support and challenge students to acuire (sic.) knowledge, exercise good citizenship, and adhere to high ethical standards.”

15 Responses for “School District Missed and Ignored Long List of Serious Problems With Youth Center Employee”

  1. biker says:

    Harriet Holiday should be removed as HR director. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of issues within the school districts hiring process as far as disqualifying candidates for employment. There is one employee that actually has a court order to stay away from their own children for safety reasons that are allowed to interact unsupervised daily with other peoples children. HR is fully aware.of this

  2. Anon says:

    Do not discount the fact that he may have a friend in the school system.
    The school system does make a practice of hiring friends of friends, relatives etc.

    The fact that he is on holiday pay , I mean administrative leave with pay, does seem a little odd.

    Had he been a Middle Eastern, Spanish or Black guy his feet would have been pounding the sidewalk quick fast and in a hurry.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think after his last arrest the comment by the Director was “He’s good with the kids”. Makes me wonder if they would have let him continue to supervise or supervise at all the children of the well to do based off of his record, as opposed to underprivileged and problem youths. I like how his arrest record mentions that he played a sport, like that makes everything alright.

  4. Charles Gardner says:

    My twins will be entering middle school next year. Do I need to take it upon myself to have a background check of all the adults they come in contact with? Is Mr. Diamond related to someone in the system that covered up his record or is this a case of someone in HR not doing their job? Nepotism, ignorance or incompetence?

  5. r&r says:

    The school board and the entire system is broken. The way to fix it is to get rid of this school board and put some people in, that have students well being in mind instead of filling the wallets with tax payers money..

  6. biker says:

    R&R funny you should mention the school board. They were all made aware of the situation that I wrote of earlier but chose to give it back to HR to handle. Ms Holiday chose to protect the rights of the employee over the student, even though there was a court order. Funny thing is that when they thought no one was paying attention they moved the employee to a position with even more unsupervised contact with your children. Basically the parent was told by school officials that they did not want to cause problems with the schools employees unions. If you think for one minute that these people have your child’s best interests in mind over an employee don’t fool yourself. They don’t.

  7. Anny says:

    Wow. I have be in contact with this guy at some of the local bars and restaurants in Palm Coast. The way i see him conducting himself and how rude and ignorant he is is. I would have never guessed he was teaching kids.

  8. Realty Check says:

    This type of situation and pure arrogance of the FCSD is why my child now attends private school, they think they are above the law and can do anything they wish; we fought them for years on special education. Here is a clear violation of their own policy, yet I highly doubt anyone will be terminated except Mr. Diamond (as should he be) The cover up will go deep, it will be explained by Gavin (SB Attorney) as a “unfortunate mistake” that was handled once it came to light, the only way it came to light was you hired a thug he was arrested again and you tried to hide that fact. Maybe you can use your new proposed .50 cent tax to hire a new HR representative; honestly government is the only business where you get to keep your job even if you are incompetent at doing it. The school district needs a good enema; the people that are in place just cannot seem to do the job up to a professional standard. They sent Diamonds paperwork into the state and they rejected it, yet this did not raise a red flag? What does it take to get results at the school district? My thought would be to have the state come in and do a complete internal investigation for the taxpayers, but that would be like going to divorce court and finding out the judge is your Mother-in-law, the taxpayers will never win. It all starts with who is in charge and I do not see Andy Dance and his fellow school board members standing up and taking blame, they will internalize this like it never happened.

  9. r&r says:

    Biker. Great Post..

  10. kenpalmcoast says:

    Good job of reporting on a disturbing story.

  11. Jennifer Lopez says:

    oh well, ethics and morality is not a strong subject in Flagler County these days. At least he wasnt sleeping with anyone

  12. Dlf says:

    Where is Colleen and the rest of the school board when we need them? Oops I forgot they are out trying to sell another tax increase,more money so we hire this kind of leader for our kids.

  13. former student says:

    Mr Diamond was rude to many of my friends and acted like the world revolved around him. With this kind of record how could anyone let him work for them.

  14. No Name 007 says:

    The district has been negligent on many occasions! The case at the beginning of this year concerning “Mr. Danny”, whom worked at Bunnell Elementary, was charged with child pornograpy lived 2 houses away from the school in which he worked as a para. 7 years or so before this took place, he was working as a teacher’s aid in the district run day care. He was moved to the Goverment Services building after he was accused of inappropriately touching two male toddlers. Although it could not be proven, they kept him working at the district. After a few years at his “new position” he was put BACK in a classroom as an aid in a class with young disabled children! After charges beig brought to a middle school Coach for assualt with a deadly weapon he threatend his girlfriend with, he was ALSO allowed to return to work after a paid leave! How in the world can they send Diamond, Mr. Danny and the PE coach, whom I will not name, back in to the schools!

  15. Let the truth be known says:

    The School Board should be ashamed of being negligent with background checks.Massaro as Director of the Youth Center should have been more diligent when recommending Diamond to be hired.She had red flags in front of her and she chose to ignore all signs.I even heard through the grapevine that when Diamond got his DUI and lost all his driving privilges she went out of her way to pick him up at his home and drive him back and forth to school.He had a bike,what kind of example was she showing him that there are no consequences to your actions.This to me is like a cover up since she also recommended him for the position,maybe she wanted him to look good getting to his job on time(since her reputation could be on the line) I think everyone on the Board should be talked to and some be fired. What a shame that this county can’t be trusted with our children.I think everyone who ignored all those signs should be fired.Lets try to get Flagler County back on track with more competent people on the Board.I am sad that our childrens best interests are totally ignored when they are our future.

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