Student's mother says girl received suggestive messages from Hawkins County teacher

Jeff Bobo • Apr 10, 2013 at 12:14 PM

CHURCH HILL — The mother of a 17-year-old Hawkins County student says a teacher who made sexually suggestive communications to her daughter received a slap on the wrist from the school for what should have been considered a criminal offense.

The mother told the Times-News Tuesday that communications between her daughter and the daughter’s teacher were more risque than the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office represented to the Times-News in Tuesday’s edition.

The mother said those communications weren’t made by “texting” — as reported to the Times-News by the HCSO Monday — but as private messages on Facebook, some of which took place after 1 a.m. beginning around March 23.

The Times-News is withholding the mother’s name to protect the identity of the daughter, who may be the victim of a crime.

The mother said she found the messages on her daughter’s Facebook page early in the morning of March 26 and called law enforcement.

The mother said she was livid Tuesday after reading HCSO comments in the Times-News that the most risque communication by the teacher was, “You look nice today.”

She noted that she was told by the HCSO that her daughter’s cell phone had been sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab to determine if alleged sexually oriented messages — which were apparently deleted — can be retrieved. The mother said she saw the messages, and the responding officer read them as well, and was going to put them in a report.

According to the mother, among the messages allegedly sent by the teacher to her daughter were:

• “I want you to use your mouth other than talking.”

• “Shower time. Come join me.”

• Talking about how he has a big bed, and the daughter replied, “So do I.” To which the teacher replied, “Is that an invite?”

• After allegedly sending a photo to the girl, the teacher asked, “Can you handle this?”

The mother said the teacher attempted to send multiple photo messages to the girl on Facebook but her daughter’s phone wouldn’t open them.

“To me, a teacher who asks a student to use her mouth for something other than talking — that is inappropriate,” the mother said. “They (the school system and sheriff’s office) like to sugarcoat things, and that’s not right. The school, the police don’t think this is something serious? What do our teachers get paid for? To talk like that to our kids? Some of the messages were at 1:42 a.m.”

When contacted by the Times-News Monday, Hawkins County Director of Schools Charlotte Britton said she couldn’t discuss the situation.

Britton said all complaints of inappropriate behavior on the part of staff are investigated, and employees are disciplined if appropriate.

According to the mother, in this case the teacher was suspended without pay for three days.

“The messages got deleted,” the mother said. “That’s why they confiscated my daughter’s phone, to send it to the TBI to pull the messages off of Facebook. According to the TBI officer, those messages never fully go away. This isn’t over.”

The mother said she spoke to Hawkins County Schools Personnel Director Nedra Jackson on Monday. She said Jackson told her the school system was “trying to keep it as quiet as possible.”

The mother said Jackson told her that because the teacher isn’t tenured, at the end of the school year a decision will be made as to whether the teacher will be rehired for the 2013-14 school year.

“My daughter is being outcast while this teacher is still walking around the hallways making jokes,” the mother said. “If he’s doing this to one kid, how many other kids is he doing this to?”

The mother said the police and school are supposed to protect her child, not cover the incident up.

“I did my job as a parent and was nosey, and found those messages. Now it’s their turn to stand up and do their job.”

The HCSO told the Times-News Monday there wasn’t enough evidence to file criminal charges against the teacher. The HCSO said the investigation into the teacher/student communications remains open and if there is new information the HCSO will re-evaluate it to see if charges need to be filed.

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