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Attorney: Superintendent refuses to address teacher harassment

Houston County Superintendent David Sewell in this 2019 photo.
Houston County Superintendent David Sewell in this 2019 photo.(WTVY News 4)
Published: Mar. 9, 2020 at 7:37 PM CDT
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Months after six Rehobeth Elementary teachers first claimed they had been harassed, an Alabama Education Association attorney is stepping up pressure for action to be taken.

“In August of 2019, six third grade teachers from Rehobeth Elementary School provided formal investigative statements, after reporting that a hostile work environment had been created by a colleague, another third grade teacher,” said John White.

He claims, despite those complaints, Houston County Superintendent David Sewell has refused to properly address the conflict.

“When leadership conducts its business based on the probably they may be sued that's poor leadership,” White told WTVY.

Sewell, though, claims his lack of action has nothing to do with poor leadership or a possible lawsuit. He said an obstacle is one AEA representative is siding with the six teachers that filed complaints and another is backing their colleague.

Sewell said he cannot otherwise comment on specifics of the dispute because the investigation is an ongoing investigative matter.

White claims the harassment began in August 2019, at the beginning of the school year. He said, after filing complaints, the six teachers met with Sewell.

“(The conveyed) how the workplace had become one of constant fear and dread due to this colleague’s contempt and hostility. The teachers voiced concerns that (the other teacher) would “snap” as she herself has admitted to doing so before,” White said.

Two school administrators, neither Sewell, also investigated and recorded interviews with the six teachers on their personal cell phones.

White alleges they have refused to turn over those recordings to his clients.

Sewell doesn't deny that claim, but points out those recordings belong to the investigators and not the school system.

White said his next step is to contact Rehobeth Elementary Principal Greg Yance, whom White claims recommended administrative leave for the teacher accused of harassment.

He hopes Yance will do so again and, this time, Sewell will uphold that recommendation.