A Florida high school teacher is under investigation over accusations that he drowned two raccoons in a garbage can while his class watched and assisted, PEOPLE confirms.
The alleged incident happened during an agricultural class at Forest High School in Ocala. One of the students’ parents told local TV station WKMG that the kids were raising chickens.
When a raccoon ate one of the animals, the parent alleges, the teacher caught both raccoons in cages and then “took the cages, filled up large trash cans full of water and had the children drown the raccoons in the cages inside the water, inside the trash cans.”
A student took photos and video of a raccoon in a metal trap. Video reviewed by PEOPLE shows the teacher and students then appearing to put the trap into a large garbage can and fill it with water from a hose.
At one point, the video shows the raccoon trying to breathe by sticking its snout above the surface of the water.
The student’s mother told WKMG that her son came home in tears after watching the incident.
“When the raccoons tried to come up for air, they had metal rods and they held them down,” the mom said. “When the raccoon would try to pop its head up, they held water hoses in its face to drown it.”
PEOPLE confirms with the Marion County Public School District that the teacher was placed on paid administrative leave on Tuesday.
The teacher has not been publicly named. A call to a phone number registered to the current agricultural teacher went unanswered.
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In a statement, a district spokesperson says that an investigation has been opened.
“While law enforcement tells us the teacher did not do anything illegal, his actions before students are certainly questionable,” the spokesperson said. “Until our investigation is complete, I cannot share further details. The district is determining the status of the teacher at this moment.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has also opened an investigation, PEOPLE confirms. The agency’s findings will be presented to the state attorney’s office, which will then decide if criminal charges are appropriate, a spokesperson says.
Another student told WFTV that some of his classmates have had nightmares since the incident, and that it took several minutes for the raccoons to drown.
“ had them trapped,” the student’s mother told WFTV. “He should have had somebody come and relocate the animals.”