ROGERSVILLE - Hawkins County Sheriff Roger Christian said Sunday his department has launched an investigation into possible inappropriate behavior between Clinch School teacher and coach Michael Eugene Noel and students or players.
This comes on the heels of Noel's arrest Thursday in Kingsport on four separate charges involving alleged sex crimes against two players he coached on the Clinch School varsity basketball team. The crimes were alleged to have occurred at Noel's Kingsport home during a sleepover for players the weekend of June 16-18, as well as during another sleepover in June 2006.
Noel, 36, 718 Hollis St., Kingsport, has been charged by Kingsport police with aggravated sexual battery, sexual battery by an authority figure, solicitation of sexual exploitation by a minor, and attempt to commit especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. According to a KPD press release, Noel signed a statement admitting to the offenses.
Now Haw- kins County detectives are looking into the possibility that Noel committed offenses in Hawkins County as well.
"We are currently running a joint investigation with the Kingsport Police Department to see if any improper conduct was committed in this county," Christian said. "We're still investigating, so whether or not there will be any charges from our departments is yet to be determined. We'll interview students. We'll interview faculty personnel and anyone else that we deem appropriate."
Former Hawkins County Director of Schools Clayton Armstrong, whose retirement took effect at midnight Saturday, told the Times-News Sunday this was obviously not the way he wanted his career to end and new director Charlotte Britton's to begin. Instead of celebrating his last full day Friday with friends and co-workers, he was answering questions about Noel from media and investigators.
There had apparently never been any complaints made about Noel prior to those made to the KPD by parents of the alleged victims on June 21.
Armstrong said he has been closely following both the Kingsport and Hawkins County investigations since the situation was announced publicly on Thursday.
"Apparently some things might have happened while he was taking students home here on back roads in Hawkins County," Armstrong said. "We're not privy to every word of the investigation, but apparently some things (allegedly) happened in a vehicle, where he was never unclothed and did not physically touch any children, but he encouraged others to do things. Even though the (Hawkins County) investigation appears that there was no sexual contact, it was contributing to the delinquency of a minor - not encouraging students into homosexual activity but encouraging them to do things, but not with each other."
Thursday Noel called Clinch School Principal Linda Long and left a message on her answering machine stating that he was resigning from his teaching position. Armstrong said Noel also stated in the recording, "Don't believe everything you hear."
Armstrong said Noel's resignation is not official until the school system receives confirmation in writing, and Noel was suspended without pay as of Friday. He was also released from the Kingsport Police Department on $50,000 bond following his arraignment Friday morning.
Armstrong said counseling services will be made available to all Clinch School students.
"It's just so tragic for the school and the community," Armstrong said. "Everyone said he was a terrific math teacher and scores were way up. I know we're going to do everything humanly possible to get the students and the faculty through this."
The K-12 Clinch School is the smallest public school in Tennessee with most grades carrying enrollment of fewer than 10 students.
Aside from being a math teacher and basketball coach Noel was also cross country coach and athletic director. This year he led the varsity basketball team to its first ever winning record and first postseason appearance.
Noel had taught at the school for 13 years.