OCALA — Former students are defending the Forest High School agriculture teacher who has been suspended with pay for enlisting current students to help him drown two nuisance raccoons and an opossum.

“We would like to say that we are 100 percent behind our advisor and everything he does for our children/students,” the Forest High School FFA Alumni Chapter wrote on the group's Facebook page.

The chapter calls Dewie Brewton, who has been the school's FFA leader since 2006, “a man who would give everything he had to make sure that his children/students are taken care of.”

“He has always gone above and beyond his call of duty to ensure that his students had everything they needed,” the chapter's statement says. “He has spent late nights, weekends and has provided around the clock support for his club and for his school.

Brewton is accused of drowning two raccoons that were suspected of killing a chicken that his students were raising at the school. A 14-second video, first released by WKMG-Channel 6 news in Orlando, has surfaced on web pages of many news outlets nationwide. The video shows students pouring water into large garbage cans, getting ready to kill the animals.

The raccoons, which had been caught in wire traps, were lowered into the water-filled cans.

The mother of a Forest freshman contacted authorities after her son came home Monday and told her what happened. The woman, whose name was not released, told Channel 6 that her son was upset.

“The raccoons tried to come up for air. (The teacher and students) had metal rods and they held them down with metal rods and when the raccoon would try to pop its head up they held water hoses in its face to drown it,” the mother told Channel 6.

The School District suspended Brewton with pay on Tuesday pending an investigation. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also is investigating.

Brewton was Forest's nominee for Golden Apple Teacher of the Year in 2010.

“He is a man of faith and has always provided the wisdom and guidance needed for his students to succeed,” the FFA alumni statement says. “He is a supporter of the agriculture industry and the FFA. The media is going to make this situation escalate to lengths that are unnecessary and we must stand together and focus on the facts. We must focus on all of the extremely positive and life changing things that this man has done for people. We must show our support for him in this time of need and show that we are one.”

The story has received wide attention, even getting play in the United Kingdom's Daily Mail.