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Teacher dismissed after allegations of inappropriate contact to appeal to Washington County Board of Education

Jessica Fuller • Mar 7, 2017 at 10:56 PM

A Gray Elementary School teacher dismissed by the Washington County Board of Education last year after allegations of inappropriate conduct will appeal to the board next month.

The board voted in November to certify that the charges against the teacher, Jennifer Collins, were grounds for her dismissal in a narrow 5-4 vote.

Keith Ervin, Annette Buchanan, Mary Beth Dellinger and David Hammond voted against the motion at that meeting. According to documents read aloud by director of schools Kimber Halliburton at Tuesday’s meeting meeting and the November meeting, Collins has been accused of inappropriate physical contact with students, primarily male students, in complaints going back to August 2014. 

Collins allegedly failed to heed a warning from the school’s principal, and another student and his parents filed a complaint against her behavior as late as Oct. 3 which, according to the document, included kissing the student on the forehead, hugging him and sticking her finger in his ear.

After the board voted to certify the charges, the case went to an impartial hearing officer.

The officer, sitting juvenile court judge Randy Kennedy, decided to terminate Collins after a hearing that involved 12 witness testimonies and 24 exhibits in December. Collins has appealed the decision and will present at the April Board of Education meeting with her legal counsel.

Attorney Tom Seeley advised board members to review transcript and exhibits from the hearing, but he said board members would not be allowed to introduce new information to the case.

”The record consists of the transcript and the exhibits, that is what you are to consider in making your decision,” Seeley said to the board. “No other evidence is to be gathered by you. That is the law regarding this appeals process.”

Upon hearing the appeal from Collins and her attorney, the board can choose to uphold Kennedy’s decision to terminate Collins, send the record back for additional evidence, revise the penalty or reverse Kennedy’s decision.

“I will say that the director’s recommendation is termination in the best interest of student safety,” Halliburton said. “We do have a sitting juvenile court judge as an impartial hearing officer, so I will be asking this board to sustain his decision, and that is termination.”

Email Jessica Fuller at jfuller@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.

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