Demonstrators call for suspension of Hawkins Elementary teacher

Jeff Bobo • Feb 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — A handful of parents picketed outside of Hawkins Elementary School on Wednesday demanding the suspension of a teacher who was charged with aggravated assault last week following an incident at home with her daughter.

Among the protesters was Kim Moore, the mother of a Hawkins Elementary fifth-grader.

Moore’s child was in class with the teacher in question, Veleka Sharon Setsor, last year. Moore told the Times-News Wednesday that although she was a good teacher and they had no problems with her last year, Setsor should be removed from the classroom until her criminal charge is resolved.

“If she was removed it would sure look a lot better for our school system, and we would sure feel safer for our kids if she was removed until this is resolved,” Moore said. “I’m not concerned that she will bring a rifle to school. I don’t know how she could get into school with a rifle, but who’s to say what she could do?

“If she (had) done this to her own daughter, who’s to say what she could do with one of our children?”

On Feb. 3 the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office was called to Setsor’s home at 102 Gordon Road, Rogersville, on a complaint of a domestic dispute between Setsor and her daughter. The daughter told deputies Setsor told her to pack her things and leave.

“According to the daughter, her mother then left the bedroom and retrieved what appeared to be a rifle and threatened to kill her with it,” Deputy Chris Funk stated in Setsor’s arrest warrant. “The mother confirmed that she did get what she thought was a pellet rifle and returned to the room. The mother denied making the threat, (but) Central Dispatch confirmed on recorded line the mother stating ‘I will kill you.’”

Aggravated assault is a Class C felony punishable by three to six years in prison.

Rogersville attorney Doug Jenkins, who represents Setsor, said Wednesday the incident has been blown “way out of proportion” and that when the evidence is presented in court Setsor will be found not guilty.

“Veleka is not only my client, she’s somebody I’ve known for years, and she’s not a violent person,” Jenkins said. “She’s a grade school teacher with no history of violence whatsoever. She has an 18-year-old daughter that she was trying to discipline. You can’t try a case in the newspaper, and I’m certainly not trying to do that, but I hope that everyone will withhold judgment until they hear Veleka’s side of this as it comes out in these court proceedings.

“We think the proof will show that this is not anywhere near what it’s charged to be, but we have to get there (to court) to tell our side. There’s a witness to a good part of the incident who also believes this is blown way out of proportion, and certainly that Veleka didn’t do what she is accused of doing.”

Setsor is next scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning to defend an order of protection petition filed by her daughter.

As for Setsor’s status as a teacher, school administrators have said she will not be suspended or asked to take a leave of absence.

Hawkins Elementary Principal Barry Bellamy said Wednesday parents should rest assured that their children are safe in the school, and extra measures have been taken to ensure that.

Bellamy added that the protesters haven’t created a distraction at the school.

“I’m a believer in the First Amendment, and they have every right to express their opinion as long as they do it in the proper way, and they’re not on school property,” Bellamy said. “There have been some phone calls, and in any situation like that you’re going to have varying reactions from people. I am very confident that the students are completely safe here at Hawkins Elementary.

“We have another adult in that class at all times when there are students in the class, and I’m making drop-in visits quite often.”

As for Setsor’s students being distracted or unable to concentrate due to the situation, Bellamy said, “I’ve not seen that. From what I’ve seen it’s been a fairly normal day in that class.”

Another parent protester, Robin Robinson, is the parent of fifth-grader at the school.

“It doesn’t matter to me if my son is being taught by her or not. There are other students being taught by her,” Robinson said. “She’s not a good role model for these children, and she shouldn’t be teaching them.”

Robinson and Moore said they would both continue to protest outside the school until Setsor is removed from the classroom.

“I think the school system should have handled this differently, and I think the school system should have better informed us parents,” Moore said. “This is the safety of our kids. This is our future. This has got the parents in Rogersville really upset.”

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