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Video shows Sensabaugh using profanity toward players, firm recommends dismissal

Zach Vance • Updated Mar 6, 2018 at 8:13 PM

A law firm hired by Washington County Schools to investigate Gerald Sensabaugh’s behavior during his tenure as head football coach of David Crockett High School is recommending the school system terminate the former NFL player.

According to the report compiled by Ensley, Baker & Shade, Sensabaugh engaged in unprofessional, insubordinate, threatening and retaliatory behavior towards supervisors, staff and students while serving as head coach of the school’s football team.

“Further, we find that Sensabaugh’s actions and statements intimidated, demeaned and undermined both his coworkers and his supervisors. We find that, in light of this conduct, Principal (Peggy) Wright was justified in placing Sensabaugh on administrative leave on Oct. 10, 2017,” the report stated.

“Moreover, it is inconceivable to these investigators that anyone could repeatedly speak to his or her supervisors and coworkers in such a belligerent and confrontational manner and still expect to maintain an employment relationship. Furthermore, we believe that Sensabaugh’s lack of civility and failure to treat others with dignity and respect forecloses any possibility of reinstatement.”

The investigators conducted at least 21 different interviews with various school officials, parents of students and with Sensabaugh himself during the course of their investigation. They also reviewed text messages, emails, audio recordings and social media postings related to Sensabaugh’s conduct.

Despite Sensabaugh claiming he “never cursed at the kids” during an interview with investigators, the report cites bus video footage that shows Sensabaugh telling the players, “Y’all m------------ don’t even know why y’all play football?” and “Y’all m------------ dive at his feet like some little b-----.”

Sensabaugh allegedly made those comments to David Crockett football players following a preseason scrimmage.

On Monday, Sensabaugh, who is running for mayor in Sullivan County, responded to the bus video on Facebook stating, “I have to share this one with you guys. I am not going to make excuses, and I'm not going to run and hide. As I have from the beginning, I want to share and discuss what’s going on in Washington County. Unfortunately, this one involves myself.

“Here I am expressing disappointment in the performance of my team after a scrimmage during the preseason. I forgot about this moment and I honestly never intended to lie about my profanity. I always admitted I used profanity. I never meant to degrade my team but only to show my team that I believe in them and expect a better performance,” Sensabaugh wrote about the bus camera footage.

“This does not steer away from the way Washington County treats its employees or the community. They allowed me to coach 7 games after this with no complaints about me. They continued to praise myself and my team long past this. This goes to show how Washington County only retaliates in order to out someone that has spoken publicly against them. If this was so concerning to them, why not just fire me when this happened?”

According to Scott Bennett, attorney for the Washington County Board of Education, Sensabaugh will have until March 9 to offer a rebuttal to the law firm’s findings or argue against his termination.

“He may either articulate his position in writing or he may request a meeting with Ms. Halliburton,” Bennett told the Johnson City Press.

The school board voted Thursday to release the Ensley, Baker & Shade report to the public.

Sensabaugh was hired to be the David Crockett head football coach in January 2017. In September, Sensabaugh took to social media to share various concerns about the school system, including mishandled money and accusations that Athletic Director Josh Kite was working under the influence of Oxycodone.

The law firm conducted a separate investigation into the accusations against Kite and found them to be unsubstantiated. 

In January, Sensabaugh filed a $5 million lawsuit against Washington County Schools and Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton, claiming they violated his free speech rights when they placed him on administrative leave. The school board has until Friday to respond to the lawsuit.

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