Former administrator at Episcopal School arrested in Alachua County

The former head of the upper school at Episcopal School of Jacksonville is in jail on stalking charges.

Action News Jax obtained a letter from a source telling parents that there will be extra security on hand at school on Friday. The letter sent to parents says Matthew Kearney was fired.

The Alachua County Sheriff's Office said Kearney had a warrant issued against him for stalking in Duval County. He was found and arrested Thursday in Alachua County.

Action News Jax obtained a petition for injunction for protection against dating violence filed against Kearney on Monday. It states that in April, the woman who filed it said he threatened one of her friends. She said she spent a few days with him and he blocked her way when she tried to leave at one point. She said he finally agreed to take her home, then he got into a car with a handgun and began driving fast and erratically. According to the injunction, he turned the car around, went back to his farm, grabbed a shotgun and stated he was going to kill himself.

That injunction also said that Kearney was placed under mental health evaluation through the Baker Act. He called that woman multiple times from a mental hospital, according to the petition. She said in that injunction she believed she was in imminent danger.

Action News Jax is also learning Kearney tried to get his release from a Gainesville mental health facility the day before he was arrested.

Court documents say on Wednesday Kearney filed a petition for his release, because he’d been there more than 72 hours. He was arrested at the institution Thursday.

Kearney was being held in the Alachua County Jail on a $100,003 bond. We obtained a letter sent to parents telling them that Kearney was fired recently.

The letter said he was arrested Thursday outside of Duval County, but the school writes they are unable to give any more information about his termination. They say anyone who is fired from the school is not allowed to come back on to the campus and the letter says “increased security on campus will be present as a precautionary measure.”

In that letter, the school says they have named a replacement for Kearney for the rest of the school year. Here is the full text of the letter sent by Head of School Charley Zimmer:

Dear Parents:
I need to inform you of a situation that quickly has started to affect our community. Matthew Kearney, Head of Upper School, was recently terminated. Subsequently, he was arrested today outside of Duval County. We are unable to disclose any information regarding his termination as a matter of policy.
Keesy Goebertus is assuming Matthew's responsibilities for the remainder of the year. We understand that you, students and faculty may find this situation upsetting. Please make sure your student(s) understand the school policy that anyone terminated is not allowed on campus and increased security on campus will be present as a precautionary measure.
Be assured that Student Services and our School Chaplains, Teresa Seagle and Brett Foster, are always available for your child.
We will update you should additional appropriate information become available.
Charley Zimmer
Head of School

Action News Jax called the school Friday to find out specifically when Kearney was fired. A spokeswoman for the school sent us a statement.

It reads in part:

"The school policy is that anyone terminated is not allowed on campus and increased security on campus will be present as a precautionary measure. We believe we have taken appropriate security measures. There is also increased security on campus due to media presence at the front gate. Matthew Kearney was terminated before he was arrested. We will continue to update our community and assess our security needs on an ongoing basis."

Security on campus hits close to home for many students and parents at Episcopal.

Back in March 2012, Episcopal's headmaster was killed in a murder-suicide on campus.

Police said Dale Regan was shot and killed by 28-year-old Shane Schumerth, a Spanish teacher who had been fired earlier the same day. He then turned the gun on himself.

Regan had been with the school for 34 years.

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