Dozens speak out to reinstate Harns Marsh assistant principal following gun incident

Reporter: Breana Ross
Published: Updated:

The Lee County School Board listened to dozens of people speak Tuesday on behalf of a teacher who may have stopped a school shooting in December and was demoted for how she handled it.

Protesters came out in support of Vivian Gutierrez, the former assistant principal of Harns Marsh Middle School.

The school said Gutierrez did not follow proper procedures while handling the situation.

School board members said they’re going to look into the training that staff is given to handle situations like what happened at Harns Marsh.

A school board member made a motion to investigate the initial investigation into Gutierrez’s actions, but the motion failed 6-1.

Sign after sign, message after message, all with the same goal — for Gutierrez.

“Ultimately to reinstate her to her position at Harns Marsh so that she is in a position to help like she did back in December,” said her daughter, Haylie.

Gutierrez was suspended then demoted to a teaching position because of her response to a gun scare at the school. The board said she broke several policies and did not react quickly enough.

But one by one, Gutierrez’s friends, family, former colleagues and even strangers spoke to the school board, calling Gutierrez a hero for preventing the shooting.

“I think the actions of Gutierrez saved lives that day,” said one person during public comment.

“They’re saying that she didn’t follow the book. I don’t know that you can follow the book at a moment like that. She made a decision and no one was hurt and that’s the best outcome,” said Jennifer Voellinger, a former School District of Lee County employee.

But the school district said the situation could have ended in a much different way and that she violated procedures by not notifying the principal or school resource officer before escorting the student from class herself and performing a search in the main office.

Her family and her supporters said she risked her life to save children.

“I could have lost her that day,” said another during public comment.

The petition Gutierrez’s family started just three days ago has nearly 5,000 signatures.

The school district said the safety of students and staff is their highest priority and they have to take action when that priority is compromised.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.