NEW PORT RICHEY — A biology teacher at J.W. Mitchell High School has been placed on paid leave after questions arose about her involvement in a party after the school’s prom where students were reportedly drinking beer and other alcoholic beverages, the Pasco County school district reported.
The April 27 party at the home of a former school secretary prompted a criminal investigation, but no charges have been filed, a spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.
The case has been turned over to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether charges are warranted, sheriff’s spokesman Eddie Daniels said.
The teacher, Samantha Murchie, and the former secretary, Lynn Worker, could face misdemeanor charges of allowing minors to drink alcohol at an open house party, Daniels said.
Although the party happened between midnight and 3 a.m. April 27, school officials didn’t find out until the school resource officer got word of it at the end of the day May 2, a Friday, Daniels said. An investigation was launched that Monday.
The sheriff’s investigation determined that about 30 to 40 students were at the party and some were drinking, and in some cases vomiting, but both adults denied any knowledge of the drinking, Daniels said. Worker said she was in the front of the house and the students were in the back, and Murchie said she had just come there to pick up her son.
Both school employees have had problems in the past, school district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.
Murchie was reprimanded for her behavior at an Oct. 25 football game at Springstead High where she mocked and made sarcastic remarks to the Mitchell cheerleaders, district records said. Worker also was involved in that incident and resigned as a result of it Oct. 31, Cobbe said.
Murchie was reprimanded in August for making rude comments that embarrassed a student, and was disciplined in 2010 after a fight broke out between two students after she left her classroom unattended, district records said.
Murchie has worked for the school district since 1996 and began teaching at Mitchell High in 2012. Worker was employed by the school district from 2000 to 2013.
Murchie was removed as Mitchell cheerleading coach in 2009 after it was alleged she was drinking and making vulgar comments at a team dinner during a trip to Tallahassee, though she denied the allegations. Although she was Mitchell cheerleading coach, she was teaching at Gulf High at the time.