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Settlement reached in Mock case

Xavier Smith • Nov 7, 2017 at 3:32 PM

The Wilson County school board approved a settlement agreement Monday for the case that involves former Tuckers Crossroads School teacher Matthew Mock.

Wilson County Schools attorney Mike Jennings said the terms of the settlement outlined Mock would not be reinstated to the school system. In return, the district would halt its appeal process.

Wilson County Chancellor C.K. Smith reduced Mock’s original suspension, but added Mock should be reinstated with the school system. Jennings argued that was not possible, because Mock resigned from the district last year.

“I think [Mock’s attorney Michael Clemons] realized one of the things the chancellor awarded shouldn’t have been possible, so he came to me and said as a settlement offer they would take that off the table,” Jennings said.

Smith handed down a decision in August to reduce Mock’s punishment to five days after the school board originally voted in 2015 to terminate Mock and two other school employees from their position at the school after they engaged in school-wide pranks at the end of the year.

According to a statement from Wilson County Schools, Mock and two other faculty members who were not tenured were cited for:

• placing a lotion-type substance on classroom door handles and a time clock.

• turning over chairs and desks in a classroom.

• taking vehicle keys and moving the vehicles without permission.

• taking Styrofoam packing peanuts that were school property and putting them in the car of one of the victims.

In response to his termination, Mock and Clemons appealed the decision. Hearing officer Robert Wheeler Jr. ruled Mock should not be fired for his participation in the pranks.

However, Wheeler ruled, “Mr. Mock be suspended from his duties with the Wilson County School System without pay from the beginning of the 2015-16 school year until the end of the first semester. This decision is not to be construed to tell the school administration where Mr. Mock should teach.”

The school board then voted to uphold Wheeler’s ruling. Board member Wayne McNeese and former board member Don Weathers voted against the upholding, citing the punishment was too harsh.

McNeese and board member Linda Armistead also discussed court transcripts in regard to charges of racial discrimination, which Wheeler found unproven.

Wheeler said in his order, “Mr. Mock described his relationship with Ms. Powell as one of great respect and stated that she was a wonderful teacher. One of his daughters was especially attached to Ms. Powell. When asked by the hearing officer if she was scared on May 28, Ms. Powell replied that she was ‘aggravated. Uncomfortable, yes. Disgusted.’ She testified more than once that she did not view the actions toward her that day to be race-based.”

Parties involved in the case presented their arguments in December 2015 before the board, with Clemons saying the only issue he sought to appeal on behalf of Mock is Wheeler’s recommendation of a semester suspension without pay.

“I simply ask that the recommended discipline of one semester without pay be revised to a written reprimand, or at most, five days without pay,” Clemons said during the meeting.

Clemons and Mock took the case to Wilson County chancery court earlier this year.

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