Hawkins County BOE told not to comment on probe of teacher allegedly messaging student

Jeff Bobo • May 3, 2013 at 11:22 AM

ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County Board of Education was advised Monday evening not to publicly discuss or make public comments about an investigation into alleged late night, sexually suggestive communications last month from a teacher to a 17-year-old student.

Prior to a budget workshop Monday, the BOE was called into a private “executive session” with Hawkins County Attorney Jim Phillips to discuss those allegations.

Governmental entities are permitted to meet in private executive session with an attorney to discuss pending litigation or threatened litigation, which includes criminal investigations.

According to sources inside that meeting, school board members were told by Phillips that the allegations are under investigation by the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office with the assistance of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Phillips reportedly told school board members not to discuss the situation or allegations publicly during the investigation.

Director of Schools Charlotte Britton was reportedly asked by board members if she realized the seriousness of the allegations when the teacher was given a three-day suspension without pay. A permanent suspension was suggested, but Britton reportedly replied that the disciplinary action was based on available information.

The Times-News received information last week that some board members wanted to use part of Monday’s workshop to discuss ideas about preventing future inappropriate communications between teachers and students.

Phillips explained to the BOE during Monday’s executive session that they couldn’t discuss this matter during Monday’s workshop due to the Sunshine Law and because the meeting had been advertised as a budget workshop only.

On March 26, the 17-year-old female student’s mother allegedly found Facebook messages on her daughter’s phone from one of the girl’s male teachers.

The mother told the Times- News last week those messages were sexually suggestive.

The mother said she called the HCSO, which responded to her home, and a deputy read those messages before they were apparently deleted.

The mother said the messages were sent March 23-26 and some were sent after 1 a.m.

The HCSO sent the girl’s phone to the TBI crime lab to determine if the alleged messages were sent, and if so, if they can be retrieved.

The HCSO told the Times-News last week it did recover some electronic communications between the teacher and student, but didn’t have enough evidence to file a criminal charge.

Britton has refused to publicly comment on the allegations or acknowledge that they exist.

The girl’s mother told the Times-News last week she was told by a Central Office supervisor that the accused teacher was suspended for three days without pay over the incident.

The mother said she was told that due to the teacher not being tenured, that teacher probably wouldn’t be rehired for the 2013-14 school year.

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