Community stands by science teacher as prosecutor asks for patience

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PRESTON — Students, parents and community members are standing up for a junior high school biology teacher who is accused of feeding a puppy to a snapping turtle last week.

A petition titled “We Support Crosland” had over 1,600 signatures as of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and dozens of Facebook users have posted positive messages in favor of the science teacher.

Robert Crosland has taught science at Preston Junior High School for years. On Monday, EastIdahoNews.com reported he was being investigated after multiple sources said he fed a small puppy to a snapping turtle after school in front of students.

RELATED | Science teacher feeds puppy to turtle after school in front of students; investigation underway

In a news release, Preston School District 201 Superintendent Marc Gee called the incident a “regrettable circumstance involving some of the biological specimens” and stressed it was not a part of any school-directed program.

Crosland is a popular teacher who has exotic snakes and other animals in tanks around his classroom, according to multiple parents and students. Some of those students started the Change.org petition with new signatures being added every few minutes.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE PETITION

“It’s time to stand up for one of the best science teachers in the Preston Idaho School District. As a past student, I know first hand the impact he had on my life and many others. Time to show our support for the man that taught us science in a new way and truly loves his job,” River McKay, the organizer of the petition, wrote on the page.

Other students and parents echo McKay’s sentiments.

“Mr. Crosland prepared me for college like no other teacher. He brought science to life and life to science,” Erica Malouf wrote.

Aaron Haws stated, “Mr. Crosland is one of the greatest men I have ever known. He and his incredible family are absolute shining pillars in the Preston/Mink Creek community. They have been through a great deal in recent years, including the loss of their home in a devastating fire. There is absolutely NO REASON he should lose his employment as well. I SUPPORT YOU!!!”

RELATED | Kids disturbed by portrayal of teacher involved in puppy feeding, says mother

Prosecutor calls for patience

Crosland has not been cited or charged with any crime and has not been placed on leave, according to Superintendent Gee. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation that was turned over to Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Vic Pearson.

Pearson issued a news release Tuesday afternoon saying that due to a conflict of interest, his office was enlisting the help of a Sixth Judicial District prosecuting attorney.

“I understand the reaction of the public regarding this incident but would ask for some patience at this point in time,” Pearson wrote. “Such delays are not uncommon to ensure we have met the legal and ethical standards required by the criminal justice system. However, the volume of calls being received by both law enforcement and my office is hindering our ability to complete what needs to be done to reach the end goal of justice in this case.”

CLICK HERE TO READ PEARSON’S ENTIRE NEWS RELEASE

PETA issues statement on incident

Crosland’s story has made headlines across the country. Regional news outlets, along with USA Today, CBS News, Newsweek, and Yahoo! News have all produced stories.

There has been backlash against Crosland on social media, most appearing to come from people living outside of Preston.

PETA issued a statement Tuesday afternoon calling on the school district to take the incident “seriously.”

“This teacher — who is allegedly known for feeding guinea pigs to reptiles during lessons — is a bully who should not be allowed near impressionable young people,” PETA Senior Director of Cruelty Casework Stephanie Bell said in the statement. “Any youngster who witnessed cruelty in the classroom is now in desperate need of lessons about having empathy for other living beings.”

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE NEWS RELEASE FROM PRESTON SCHOOL DISTRICT 201

In a news release, Gee says the district is taking steps to ensure “this type of action could not be repeated.”

“While the district certainly does not condone individual actions that may violate district policy or reasonable expectations of behavior, we hope that any errors in judgment made by a teacher in this instance will not cause us to forget the years of care, effort and passion the teacher has given to students in Preston School District,” Gee says.

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