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7/8/2014 11:20:00 AM
Williams High School teacher resigns after allegations of bullying students
Sheldon White resigns before hearing officer makes recommendation about his employment status
Construction teacher Sheldon White resigned from Williams High School on June 24.
Construction teacher Sheldon White resigned from Williams High School on June 24.
Marissa Freireich
Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - After being terminated for allegations of harassment, bullying and defamation of students, Williams High School (WHS) construction teacher Sheldon White appealed the decision and requested an employment hearing.

That hearing took place June 20 and lasted for more than eight hours. White, Williams Unified School District Superintendent Rachel Savage, WHS Principal Tristan Heisley, and several students testified, with the students' testimony taking place in executive session.

However, before the hearing officer could make a recommendation to the school board regarding White's employment status, White turned in his letter of resignation to the district on June 24. Governing board members accepted White's resignation at their June 25 meeting. According to Savage, teachers who resign on good terms after working with the district for at least six years are eligible for sick leave buyback.

White is accused of calling and texting a student on her cell phone, calling another student a liar, not a true friend and a loser, saying a third student was faking an injury and saying a fourth student was probably out partying and smoking dope. The alleged incidents surrounded students coming in to work on a SkillsUSA project for an upcoming competition.

District officials chose to terminate White after this incident, which occurred in April, after two issues came up in the previous school year.

On Oct. 10, 2012 school board members voted to place White on unpaid suspension for 19 days after he locked three students in a closet for more than 30 minutes.

Then on May 22, 2013 administrators placed White on an improvement plan based on student allegations that he made racial slurs and other inappropriate comments in front of students and allowed students to use tobacco in his classroom.

During White's testimony about the April incident, he said that parts of the story had been embellished, but added that he still thought both of the main students involved in the incident were great students.

"I'm disappointed in what happened and in some of the things that have been exaggerated and said about me and the position I'm in. I'm disappointed in that. But I don't think the students understand the exaggerations and the ramifications on me and the school, etcetera, what they mean," White said. "I still like both kids, would have them in my class in a heartbeat and would work with them well. They're good, intelligent kids. But they're kids though. They can exaggerate things and blow things out of proportion when they're upset."

White also said that he shouldn't have made comments about the student partying.

"In hindsight it was ignorant of me," he said. "Things were happening fast and the trip was falling apart and maybe I wasn't thinking as clear as I normally would have and I made a mistake."

However, Savage and Heisley testified that White did not feel that contacting the student on her cell phone was inappropriate and felt that he was doing what any coach would have done in that circumstance.

"Obviously you can tell from it that I'm passionate about the competition and wanted (the student) there...(at practice)," White said. "I was trying to get her to come and be better."

During Heisley's testimony, he said contacting a student via their cell phone was not the correct way to handle the situation.

"There's a line that we can't cross, and calling (student) number two, texting number two, finding her at school the next day in the classroom, and then finding her at lunch right after, and then calling her in a very important college prep class, and then in the chemistry class after... Any time a student doesn't feel comfortable, that definitely shouldn't be something we're okay with at school. And the students were uncomfortable for sure," Heisley said.

Savage made similar comments during her testimony, calling the October issue "egregious behavior" and saying that the three incidents combined illustrated a pattern of poor judgment.

"It's unpredictable behavior. That concerns me," she said. "But when you're talking about students feeling safe or when parents use the word harassment or bullying or inappropriate contact - all of those words are red flags. And they really go against the type of environment that we want to set for students."

The district is currently looking for a new construction teacher.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, July 21, 2014
Article comment by: ol' school

Pretty sad this all started from the kids that refused to do what they were told, and got locked in a closet. After that it seemed like they had it out for him. It all starts at home, with the parents and until that starts to change the kids never will. Our old way of up bringing has gone down the drain, and the kids are trying to figure out on their own how to be adults. Sad to say the least, for the kids and the teachers that attempt to mold them into something when their parents are to lazy, or maybe never around.

Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2014
Article comment by: BBQ COWBOY

Mr. White was the best teacher at the Williams High school. Just because he cares enough to text a student when they are absent does not make him a bad teacher. Since when is caring about your students illegal? Seems like we lost another good teacher. At least Mr. White is working with Jesse Pinkman now!

Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Article comment by: Blown out of perportion

Mr. White did not mix words or sugar coat the way things were, I think students will miss him, a good part of this was blown out of perportion and caused a witch hunt. Too bad, the district has lost alot of good teachers this year.

Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2014
Article comment by: Pat Smith

Mr. White was a great colleague of mine for many years. Even though we didn't always get along I do think he was punished pretty severely. Kids these days have no respect for authority. Glad I just retired so I don't have to worry so much about these types of problems!

Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Article comment by: Butch Coolidge

Just wondering Ron if you know which end of your body is doing the talking? And if so what is it trying to say ??

Posted: Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Article comment by: Ron Pauly

Yeah! Leave those little angels alone. Brings back memory's of kids acting civilized when paddling was still allowed. From various teachers ive talked to. The job is like being part baby sitter and part prison warden.

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