Clarke County Public School officials say that they aren’t able to release details of an investigation last week into reportedly inappropriate comments made by a Clarke County Public School teacher in front of a classroom full of students on Tuesday, January 10.
In response to an initial inquiry made last week by the Clarke Daily News, Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy said on Friday, January 13 “We received a report late yesterday afternoon regarding an alleged comment made about Tim Tebow by a staff member. An investigation was started this morning and is still underway.”
At the time, Murphy declined to provide additional information after labeling the issue a “personnel matter” and saying that the division would handle the issue “swiftly and confidentially” and declined to describe any specifics of the alleged statement.
During last night’s School Board session, School Board and Policy Committee member Dr. Beth Leffel asked Murphy about the incident.
“I received an email request dated January 15th to publicly address the situation and to disclose details that were not confidential with regard to personnel names,” Leffel said. “I was specifically asked to confirm a quote which led to the complaint being filed. So I’m just bringing that to the School Board’s attention and directing the matter to Dr. Murphy.”
“What policy are you referring to?” Murphy replied.
“Policy 5-12,” Leffel responded.
Murphy paused to consider the question and then replied “To the best of my knowledge no complaint has been filed by a student or a resident of Clarke County. Mr. Catlett, is that correct? Are you aware of a complaint that has been filed against an employee of Clarke County Public Schools by a student or a resident of Clarke County?”
“We’ll, I’m reading this policy – Third Party Complaints Against Employees,” Assistant Superintendent Rick Catlett replied. “I guess technically, officially, no, I’m not in receipt of a complaint. I’m not aware of a complaint. Dr. Murphy, we are bringing it to the closed meeting of the School Board for a discussion tonight.”
“That is correct,” Murphy replied.
“I was emailed the statement – it’s rather inflammatory – that the person wanted confirmation of whether the [teacher’s] statement did occur?” asked Leffel.
“Until the School Board has received the results of our investigation on this alleged matter I do not believe that any member of the School Board is in a position to comment on any statement that may or may not have been made. It is an active and ongoing personnel matter.”
After the meeting, Catlett clarified that no student or staff member had made a formal complaint about the comments, but confirmed that the issue had been brought to the attention of the CCHS principal who then alerted school administration.
Although school administrators declined to publicly release information about the specific comment that sparked the investigation, sources with direct knowledge of the incident said that an offensive comment occurred during the class “warm-up period” as the teacher was checking homework. One student reportedly said that he liked NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. The teacher’s comments in response to the student’s admiration for Tebow were the cause of the investigation.
Denver Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow’s willingness to openly express his religious beliefs, both on and off the field, has cast him as an angel in the eyes of some fans and as a show-off in the view of others. Tebow’s practice of offering end-zone prayers that can last longer than a brief kneel has caused him to be openly mocked by players from other teams, as well as fans, for his Christian beliefs.
Apparently, news of the alleged comments raced quickly through the school division and became the central topic of conversation at the CCPS Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting the following day. The FCA discussion prompted a CCPS staff member to bring the comments to the attention of CCHS principal Dr. Jeffrey Jackson.
Assistant Superintendent, Rick Catlett issued the following statement this morning: “It was reported to us that an employee made inappropriate remarks on a non-school-related topic in the presence of students. Appropriate disciplinary action was taken against the employee. It is the policy of Clarke County Public Schools not to disclose any further details about its employees or personnel matters.”