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UCHS teacher was under investigation by school system, USCD

March 13th, 2014 8:56 pm by Brad Hicks

UCHS teacher was under investigation by school system, USCD

ERWIN — Unicoi County High School ROTC instructor Sgt. Melvin Cooper, the school system employee suspended last month during an investigation, retired from his post in late February rather than face dismissal, according to Unicoi County Director of Schools Denise Brown.

At Thursday’s regular meeting of the Unicoi County Board of Education, Brown read a letter concerning the investigation involving Cooper. She said that on Feb. 21, a complaint was filed with a Unicoi County Schools System administrator alleging possible inappropriate conduct by a school system employee. Brown said this complaint was immediately forwarded to her and, upon receipt of it, she and Tommy Clouse, a supervisor within the school system, began the initial investigation.

On the advisement of the school system’s attorney, the allegations were also reported to the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department. Brown said she met with Cooper to make him aware of a pending investigation involving allegations made against him, and he was suspended with pay on Feb. 21.

Brown said she once again met with Cooper on Feb. 24 and informed him that the investigation had progressed and he was to be suspended without pay.

“The school system continued their internal investigation along with the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department,” Brown said.

Brown said as the investigation was concluding and decisions were being finalized for Cooper’s dismissal, Cooper submitted retirement papers to the school system, effective Feb. 24.

Following Thursday’s meeting, Brown said no further information regarding the allegations made against Cooper and the investigation could be released.

“If he had not retired, I would have been presenting charges tonight that would have laid everything out,” Brown said.

Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley said Thursday evening that his department thoroughly investigated the matter, and he does not foresee criminal charges being placed against Cooper at this time.

“We did investigate,” Hensley said. “I was notified by Ms. Brown of some allegations that had been made. We interviewed every female cadet in the ROTC program. There were no findings of any criminal activity on the part of Mr. Cooper.”

Brown did confirm last month that a school system educator had been suspended without pay, but she said at that time she could not provide the teacher’s name or details on the investigation.

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