Keith Connors

Weekdays 10a-3p

Shawn Hayston, a father of two elementary school-age sons, visited Pasco County’s Pine View Middle School last August with a group of parents raising concerns about one of the school’s murals, which had been featured in social media posts. The mural, which depicted a girl in a gas mask, has since been painted over.

According to Hayston, the tour with the school’s principal, Jennifer Warren, did not go well and tensions were high as he and other parents asked pointed questions that Warren did not seem comfortable answering. Hayston and other parents who attended said they left with more questions than when they arrived and felt that they had been treated disrespectfully.

The day after his visit, Hayston received a message from his supervisor at the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Department, where he has been a firefighter for nearly 20 years, stating that Warren had called the department claiming that Hayston had entered the school under false pretenses, was hostile during the tour, and had been cited for trespassing. However, the trespassing claim was not true. The department launched an investigation and no action was taken after the review. Hayston and his lawyer have asked for an apology, but have yet to receive one.

This incident has become a cause for parents who see it as emblematic of the way that public school officials dismiss their concerns. This perspective has fueled a mostly conservative nationwide push for more parental control. The Pasco County School Board members have stated that they want to hear all views and be more responsive to parents, but the matter is in the hands of Superintendent Kurt Browning who considers the case closed. He stated that Warren had been counseled by her supervisor that the call was inappropriate, but not a violation of district policy, Education Department ethics rules or state law. TBT