Report: Teacher allegedly called biracial teen ‘mutt,’ made other racist comments

Wharton High School teacher Todd Harvey is referred to as a "serial abuser," logging more than a dozen documented misconduct offenses against students since he started teaching in 1997.

Students and parents at a Florida high school want a teacher off the job following two decades of controversial and alleged racially motivated actions, which include calling a biracial teen a “mutt.”

Todd Harvey, a teacher at Wharton High School in Tampa — referred to as a “serial abuser,” with more than a dozen documented misconduct offenses against minor students since started teaching at an area middle school in 1997 — has attracted more than 500 signatures on a petition demanding his immediate dismissal, according to The New York Post.

“He is a homophobic, racist, misogynistic, person,” the petition reads, The Post reported, “who should not be a teacher at all.”

Wharton High School teacher Todd Harvey has found himself at the center of calls for his immediate firing after at least two decades of making racially motivated and inappropriate remarks toward students. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Melanie Copeland is among the many students affected by Harvey’s alleged actions. She told The Tampa Bay Times that Harvey instructed her to write “mutt” when asked to designate her race on government documents because she is biracial. 

The 2017 experience left such a lasting impression that Copeland wrote about it in her college admissions essay. She later read a Tampa Bay Times article about Blake High School’s handling of sexual harassment allegations, which led to a federal investigation the summer after she graduated from a campus in another district.

“I thought I was the only one who had a serious problem with Hillsborough County trying to sweep things under the rug,” Copeland wrote in an email to the news outlet. However, the teen was unaware that parents and students were unhappy with Harvey long before she was born.

According to The Post, the online petition against Harvey requests a “thorough investigation” by law enforcement and school administrators into the disturbing history of complaints.

The 23 claims in question were first made public in an exposé by The Tampa Bay Times.

“I understand it is not uncommon for this man to reduce students to tears,” a parent complained in 1999, the paper noted.

The complaints included lewd remarks, with Harvey reportedly calling one girl “slutty” and promising to marry another when she turned 21. Harvey called the comment about being “slutty” a joke that he later regretted.

According to the newspaper, Harvey also reportedly told his students that gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to wed in a church and that women should stay home and not work.

He also allegedly said that girls with “thunder thighs” shouldn’t wear shorts.

Other accusations included calling Latino students “hairy,” saying they “eat rice and beans” and insisting on referring to a German exchange student as “Germany,” not her name.

Harvey acknowledged giving a Nazi salute in class after receiving criticism from another German student. The professor insisted it was all part of a lesson on the Holocaust, the Post reported, citing The Tampa Bay Times article.

Harvey allegedly bullied a transgender student who later committed suicide, with police saying the student was upset over an argument with the professor the day before. A friend told the newspaper that the teacher tormented the impressionable student by claiming he resembled a “psychopath” and a potential school shooter.

According to The Tampa Bay Times, several students claimed they requested a probe into whether the remarks contributed to the student’s death. However, records don’t mention the requests or the investigation.

Harvey has received criticism for allowing students to pay him to raise their grades. The most recent complaint, in February 2017, came as he faced reprimand for engaging in “unprofessional conduct” by assisting students in cheating on tests, leading to officials invalidating their scores.

The controversial teacher once received a five-day, no-pay suspension for using racially “disparaging” language. Officials have threatened to fire him at least twice — but instead allowed him to continue teaching.

While Hillsborough County Public Schools spokesperson Tanya Arja declined to comment on specific incidents, citing student privacy laws, she indicated that school records differed from The Tampa Bay Times’ reporting, The Post reported.

“Incidents involving Mr. Harvey were investigated,” she noted, according to The Post, claiming he was “disciplined in a progressive manner.”

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