WASHINGTON COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – In a 5 to 4 vote Thursday, the Washington County School Board voted to revise punishment and reinstate a tenured elementary school teacher who was previously fired for reportedly having physical contact with students.
In November 2016, Gray Elementary School teacher, Jennifer Collins was fired for insubordination and misconduct. Washington County, Tennessee Director of Schools, Kimber Halliburton said students and parents complained about her.
Those complaints reportedly involved two male students. The complaints included Collins kissing them on the forehead, hugging him and putting her finger in ears.
Halliburton said Collins was given a letter of warning from the school’s principal back in August. The allegations reportedly go back to 2014.
During Thursday’s appeal of a January ruling by juvenile court judge, Randy M. Kennedy, that the dismissal of Jennifer Collins was proper and just, Halliburton said that the findings and testimony ruled in the board’s favor.
Board member Mary Beth Dellinger motioned the revised penalty. She asked that former Gray Elementary School teacher, Jennifer Collins be reappointed next school year.
This comes after a board member proposed to sustain and uphold the current decision, that vote failed.
Dellinger said Collins has already served her punishment and she should be reinstated.
Jon Allen who spoke representing Jennifer Collins in this appeal said that the 27 year veteran teacher had a good record until recently and that the proper documentation of the alleged incidents dating back to 2014 was not done. He asked the board to disregard Halliburton’s remarks and said that terminating Collins was not in the best interest of the school.
After the vote, Halliburton told us it’s a clear cut case of insubordination and this vote has implications for the school system.
“I’m concerned that this sends the wrong message, there was a concern for safety of our students and I’m concerned that this might send the wrong message to our students our parents and to teachers who may choose to be insubordinate,” Halliburton said.
Halliburton added that she’s worried about attracting top administrative talent to the school district.
After tonight’s vote, some school administrators in the audience left the room visibly upset. Halliburton said administrators are very troubled by this vote and they don’t feel supported by the board.
When Collins is reinstated at Gray Elementary next school year, it’ll be up to Halliburton to decide where she’s placed.
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