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South Fork High School principal reassigned following controversial searches

'There's no reason for parents or staff to have widespread panic or concern,' Martin County School District spokeswoman Jennifer DeShazo says
Posted at 6:09 PM, Sep 05, 2023

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — A longtime principal in the Martin County School District has been reassigned as part of what's being called a "professional standards" investigation.

It's alleged to involve the searches of students on school grounds.

A letter was sent to South Fork High School parents Tuesday saying that Principal Dr. Timothy Aitken has been reassigned due to what's being called an "active professional standards investigation."

"It's something that school districts undergo when there are allegations of some type of misconduct," Martin County School District spokeswoman Jennifer DeShazo said.

She added that there was no criminality involved.

Martin County School District spokeswoman Jennifer DeShazo discusses why Dr. Timothy Aitken was reassigned from South Fork High School.
Martin County School District spokeswoman Jennifer DeShazo discusses why Dr. Timothy Aitken was reassigned from South Fork High School.

"The incident we're looking into is something that's pretty isolated," DeShazo said. "There's no reason for parents or staff to have widespread panic or concern."

Late in the day Tuesday, WPTV received a report from the Martin County Sheriff's Office that spells out what's alleged to have happened last week on campus.

It describes three incidents where South Fork High School students were either suspected or discovered with a nicotine vape device.

According to the report, in each case, the students were allegedly taken to an area where they were asked to empty their pockets and drop their pants.

The incident report said the principal was present for at least one of the searches. None of the students reported being touched.

"We discussed this with the State Attorney's Office, and there is no state statute that was violated," Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder explains why the incident hasn't prompted any charges.
Martin County Sheriff William Snyder explains why the incident hasn't prompted any charges.

The sheriff added that there was questionable behavior in this case and that his school resource deputy was not involved in the initial searches.

"I think this is a good lesson going forward that if you're investigating a child on campus for contraband, whether it's cigarettes, vapes or anything, probably the best policy would be to involve the SROs immediately," Snyder said.

The incident report outlines a fourth student who was called into the SRO's office and asked if his search earlier in the school year had been similar. That student said he had not been asked to remove his pants.

Civil citations were issued for two of the students for possession of tobacco.

Aitken has been with the district since 2012 when he was named principal at Anderson Middle School.

He came to South Fork High School in 2021 and has been reassigned, for now, to district headquarters pending the outcome of the investigation.

WPTV tried to contact Aitken for comment but did not hear back.