PUNTA GORDA, FL –
The scene played out at a school parking lot early Tuesday morning. Punta Gorda Police say Noreen Freeman was driving to work drunk.
“I’m a little shocked because they usually do thorough background checks,” says Jason Thomsen, a parent with a child at The Baker Center.
Freeman is a community health advocate who works as the school nurse at The Baker Center, a pre-k school in Punta Gorda.
Police say she was slurring her words, struggling to stand up and blew three times the legal limit. They arrested her for driving under the influence.
“To show up at school and expect to do your job under the influence of alcohol is not acceptable in our district,” explains Charlotte County Public Schools Community Liaison Mike Riley.
District leaders and parents were surprised to hear about the arrest.
“It’s terrible that people let things like that take over their lives,” Thomsen points out. He says one employee’s actions shouldn’t reflect poorly on the quality of the school.
While some parents want Freeman fired immediately, Thomsen isn’t jumping to conclusions.
“I wouldn’t expect them to fire her right away. Everyone has a chance to see if they are guilty or not,” he said.
The district will conduct an internal investigation to determine what to do next.
Meanwhile, Freeman isn’t suspended. She took the rest of the week off. The school year ends Friday. The district is offering her substance abuse help if she wants it.
We found her car parked outside of her apartment, but she didn’t answer the door.
According to police reports, Freeman admitted to drinking the night before. She also told officers she is on medication.
She’s been an employee at the Charlotte County school district since January of 2008.
Article by Charlie Keegan, Charlotte County Reporter, www.abc-7.com