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Mock suspension faces scrutiny

Xavier Smith • Jan 2, 2016 at 7:00 AM

The Wilson County Board of Education will discuss the semester-long suspension without pay of a teacher dismissed for pranks at Tuckers Crossroads Elementary School on Monday.

The board voted to take action on Matthew Mock’s appeal in December after parties involved in the case presented their arguments prior to the Dec. 21 board meeting.

In October, Hearing officer Robert Wheeler Jr. ruled that Mock should not be fired for his participation in pranks that took place May 28 at the school.

Mock’s attorney, Michael Clemons, said the only issue he is asking 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.

“To me, with what you now have in front of you in the form of the transcript as proof, to say he needs to be suspended for a semester without pay is arbitrary.”

Clemons said the dismissal of several charges against Mock should warrant a change in Mock’s punishment.

“If you have had time to review [appeal hearing testimony], I think that you’ll agree that the facts uncovered during that hearing are very different from the ones presented to you on July 6, when the vote was taken for Mr. Mock to be terminated,” Clemons said.

Wilson County Schools attorney Mike Jennings said the board should be cautious in changing Wheeler’s decision.

“The hearing officer found that there was conduct unbecoming to a member of the teaching profession. I think you will see in his order, if you haven’t already seen it, he referred to it as ‘juvenile behavior,’” said Jennings, noting the board voted unanimously to terminate Mock, who will teach at Mt. Juliet Middle starting Jan. 4, earlier this year.

“Mr. Clemons said they did not find insubordination. I beg to differ,” Jennings said. “They did find insubordination, but he said, ‘not to the extent that necessitates his dismissal.’”

Jennings said the biggest factor is that no party has denied Mock’s actions occurred.

“Mr. Mock wants you to give him a break. That’s what he’s asking for. I would submit to you that the hearing officer did give him a break. He suspended him for a semester and didn’t terminate him,” Jennings said.

“[Jennings] did bring up the 5-0 vote last time. At the time of the 5-0 vote, there was an issue of racial discrimination that was thrown out to us. That throws a lot of weight into what I think,” school board member Wayne McNeese said.

“I would have voted differently, maybe, if that had not been a part of that. Now that racial discrimination is really not part of that, if I known that at the time, I wouldn’t have voted to do that, knowing what I know now.”

Charges against Mock that Wheeler did not uphold were racial discrimination, allegation students were asked by Mock to take keys out of a teacher’s purse and others.

According to a statement from Wilson County Schools released earlier this year, Mock, as well as two other faculty members who were not tenured, were cited in a May 28 Wilson County sheriff’s report 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.

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