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Halliburton maintains she didn't fire Sensabaugh for Facebook comments in legal response

Jessica Fuller • May 18, 2018 at 9:05 PM

Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton maintains she didn’t fire former David Crockett football coach Gerald Sensabaugh for making public comments about the school system in an ongoing legal battle. 

Sensabaugh’s original complaint, filed in January, claimed that Halliburton and the school board suspended Sensabaugh in retaliation for his Facebook postings criticizing the school system, trumping his First Amendment Right to free speech.

Sensabaugh filed the amended complaint last month to include Halliburton’s decision to terminate Sensabaugh on March 15.

After Sensabaugh filed his amended complaint, Halliburton had 21 days to respond, which was filed May 8. Halliburton responded through her legal representation by denying claims from Sensabaugh that his public comments on social media were the reason she suspended – and later fired – him.

Sensabaugh’s comments revolved around the condition of Jonesborough Elementary School and using prison inmate labor on school grounds, according to the complaint.

Throughout her legal response, Halliburton maintains her decision to terminate Sensabaugh, a former NFL player hired to coach David Crockett’s football team last year, came from the recommendation of the Baker Report, an investigation through the law firm Ensley, Baker & Shade, which found that “Sensabaugh’s actions and statements intimidated, demeaned and undermined both his coworkers and his supervisors.”

The report cites bus video footage of Sensabaugh cursing players as well as interviews with 21 individuals as well as text messages and emails that ultimately recommended his termination.

Sensabaugh says in the complaint that he “denies the allegations in (Baker’s confidential report on Sensabaugh)” further alleging that the report is part of the Board and Halliburton’s “pretextual narrative and retaliatory action against Coach Sensabaugh for speaking out on social media of matters of public concern.” 

Halliburton states in her response that it’s true Baker recommended Sensabaugh’s termination, but denies the allegations that the report had anything to do with Sensabaugh’s viral Facebook posts about the school system. 

Since Halliburton is named as an individual in the suit, her attorneys argue that she qualifies for “qualified immunity,” which means as a public figure, she cannot be held personally liable from damages related to civil liability. 

If the two parties cannot reach a settlement, the trial date has been set for Sept. 10, 2019, in Knoxville.

Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected] Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.

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