Cara Plummer, a first-grade teacher at Belle Terre Elementary School, was found impaired from alcohol at the end of the school day on Monday, and refused district personnel’s request for a drug/alcohol test at an urgent care clinic.
The last class ended at 3:40 p.m. At 3:55 p.m., Jessica DeFord, the principal at Belle Terre, requested the assistance of a Flagler County Sheriff’s school resource deputy after getting a report that Plummer was under the influence of an unknown substance, and walked with the deputy to the classroom where two employees were speaking with Plummer.
“It was clear that Mrs. Plummer was not feeling nor looking well based on my observation,” deputy Samuel Cooper reported. He “could smell an odor of alcohol emitting from Mrs. Plummer. That was also confirmed by Mrs. DeFord as she signaled with a hand gesture to her nose, whispering to this deputy that she smells alcohol. I shook my head in agreement with Mrs. DeFord’s depiction.”
Board policy forbids the use or possession of alcoholic beverages on any school property, as well as forbidding being “under the influence of, an intoxicating beverage or an illegal mood or behavior-modifying substance while on school property.” Principals are required to order anyone found violating the policy off school premises immediately, or be “deemed a trespasser.”
When DeFord asked her, a distraught Plummer denied that she’d been drinking, but that she’d taken some prescription medication “due to depression over her mother’s passing.” But when Mike Rinaldi, who was also in the classroom by then, asked her whether she would submit to a drug and alcohol test at Medi Quick, she declined, admitting, according to the sheriff’s incident report, that “if she went to Medi Quick they probably would find alcohol and her prescription drugs in her system.” Rinaldi is the district administrator who handles all internal investigations.
Rinaldi and DeFord offered various proposals to either drive Plummer home or have one of her family members come pick her up, none of which proved either feasible or agreeable to her. The deputy reported that she “continued to use foul language to describe her reason for her present condition,” became more aggravated as the encounter or the way for a ride continued, and at one point said, using an expletive, she was resigning and would not return, because she did not need this job.
In the end, after the deputy had secured an Uber driver then cancelled it once Plummer’s son arrived at the school, Plummer was escorted to her son;s vehicle. “Based on my training and experience it was determined that Mrs. Plummer was under the influence and unable to drive while impaired,” the deputy reported. As of now, no criminal charges are being filed, a sheriff’s spokesperson said on Thursday.
Plummer, a 50-year-old employee in Flagler schools since August 2015, has been on paid administrative leave since Monday, the usual status when an employee is under internal investigation. School is in session until Friday, after which the winter break begins, running through Jan. 4 for teachers, who report back to school on Jan. 5. Students report back on Jan. 9.