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  Letter to the Editor

May 17, 2012

Rogue Teachers at Bearden Middle School
Name Dropping on the Bad Apples

First, let me say that not all teachers at Bearden Middle School are bad apples. Most of the teachers are hard working and dedicated teachers who should be paid and worshiped much more than they are now.

In my opinions below, I find that those teachers who turn out to be bad apples do not admit their mistakes nor learn from them. I have also found that some teachers lack support, proper training or direction by school Principal, Sonya Winstead.

Five months ago, a frail 13 year old female student at Bearden Middle School, who I will name as Sophia, was arrested for yelling in the office at Bearden Middle School. She was yelling because she was confused as to why she was getting in school suspension for defending her friend. The previous day her friend was being bullied by two male students. Sophia had cursed at the students to stop bullying her friend.

At the request and direction of Vice Principal, David Bailey, he had Sophia handcuffed, put in a police car and driven to a juvenile jail where she was locked up in a cell with no notice or call to her parents or her emergency contact until long after.

The director of the juvenile court detention center set up a meeting with mom to discuss the upcoming juvenile court case. He had the official complaint from the school and a statement from the student. The arrest was officially for Disorderly Conduct (Yelling). He was appalled at the actions by the school. The Director immediately had the case dismissed and mentioned how minor school infractions are sending very young students to jail more and more at Knox County Schools, but no one is doing anything about it.

On Jan 15 2012, I sent in an official complaint to Principal Sonya Winstead of Bearden Middle school. Her response was, and I quote, "I can assure you that my staff and administrative team are forthright, honest and are people with integrity. You should find our records to be impeccable." Again, I agree with that for the most part, but I was talking to Ms. Winstead about her bad apples here. Not all teachers. Ms. Winstead's ignorance, arrogance and lack of training continues to cause other students harm.

Her statement set off an unofficial investigation by myself, a self imposed advocate, that has led to massive policy and procedure issues, abuse to multiple students over multiple years and missing and covered up staff discipline records.

At around the same time, I filed official complaints with Knox County Schools, Melissie Massie.

Previous to the above incidents, mom had pleaded with the school that Sophia's teacher was bullying the student by writing her up every day for little things such as reading a book after her assignments were complete. Before my investigation, Ms. Wilkinson admitted on record to not following correct laws regarding the handling the student Sophia. Just this week, Ms. Wilkinsin told a student, who's mom is dying of multiple sclerosis, that he was going to end up a poor pill head just like his mother. This complaint is pending by another students mother.

Why is this teacher still teaching? After a public records request we found that this teacher has physically slapped a student and has been reprimanded on many occasions for inappropriate contact with students and parents.

We also discovered that Sophia and other students in Ms. Robin Morton's class, has been placing her students in an "isolation room." Students have died, hurt themselves and have had severe psychological issues in these types of abusive rooms. After our complaints over the past few months, we believe the school has since discontinued this illegal practice, but the investigation is ongoing with no official results.

So what happens if the "isolation room" is occupied? We are told by students that if the isolation room is occupied, you are placed in the classroom closet. If you talk in the closet, the door gets closed. If you talk in the closet and the lights go out.

What? Ok. That is unbelievable, so let me move on.

After a Knox County Schools public records request, I discovered that principal, Corey Smith, who left bruises on a child, lied on the record about doing it, then later told the truth, was given a great evaluation and even raises by the very person who was told about the abuse, Fred Nidiffer, director of elementary education for Knox County Schools. Melissa Massie, Executive Director, was also aware of this issue. There is no mention of the abuse in the employee file. How many other children were abused by this staff member? Again, this seems to be common practice with some staff records that I have researched at Knox County Schools. Is abuse swept under the rug? How can we correctly evaluate who is teaching our students? We can't.

What happens to bad apples? Knox County Schools can show the students that even teachers must follow rules, policies, and procedures.

I can tell you what Bearden Middle School does-The principal promotes them to teacher of the year!

What? Yes, Ms. Robin Morton was given teacher of the year about two months after we filed our complaints regarding her abusive isolation room. The award was presented to her by Dr Clifford Davis, Supervisor of Secondary Education. Dr. Davis knew in detail the improper use of the isolation room.

It is now five months after the initial complaint with school. The investigation has not concluded, so your student may still be in a classroom with an abusive teacher. It will be OK in the end. You only have a few more days of school. But what about next years unsuspecting students and parents?

If your student has any of the above teachers and you suspect something wrong, please contact me and I will forward the information to the school investigator. I will keep your name anonymous if you wish and you do not have to give me your students name.

Let's help other students, and get rid of the bad apples.

Please contact me at if your student was abused or held in an isolation room or locked in a closet by any of these staff members.

Christian Seus

May 16, 2012

Ms. Wuethrich,

I have two new student abuse allegations regarding Bearden Middle School that you could add to your investigation.

I learned of these yesterday and the day before.

First, I just met a new neighbor a street over who has a child at Bearden Middle School. The student mentioned to us and his mother today that there is a teacher at his school last year who would put students in a "curtained room" and also lock them in the closet as well. He is in 8th grade at Bearden Middle School. He mentioned that it was Ms Morton. So my assumptions that Ms. Robin Morton, current Teacher of the Year, was truly locking kids in closets at least for two years is true.

The parent looked at the child today and said, "What?? You never told me that!!" She was shocked. For this parents protection, I wont reveal what school organization she is part of, but this is what we are finding many parents are saying regarding their kids and this teacher. We never believed what Ms. Robin Morton did to C.F. either, but we did investigate and found the abuse to be true.

The second issue (two parts) is regarding Ms. Wilkinson. We have seen numerous official parent complaints to Knox County Schools regarding this teacher, including the teacher slapping a student and having inappropriate relationships with parents over a multi-year period. In these records, we have seen multiple school reprimands, yet Ms Sonya Winstead, Principal, still employs and regards this staff members having-and I quote-"impeccable records." There are also allegations and complaints that have been reported to the school regarding Ms. Wilkinson that are NOT in her file. Nor are there reprimands for those parent complaints.

Just this week Ms. Wilkinson again verbally abused a student with little or no bad behavior. The student had to be removed from the school by his mother. She told the student that his mother was a crackhead, and she and he will never amount to anything. I am just scratching the surface of the parents complaint, but that complaint I believe has been filed by the mother with the school board etc. Someone will need to address the 3 hours per day of IEP that this child wont be receiving. Ms. Wilkinson is one reason Bearden was unsafe for C.F. and why the student was withdrawn. C.F. was bullied by this teacher every day at school and the school took no action.

This abuse could have been stopped with our many complaints before we removed C.F. from Bearden Middle School, but the principal ignored it. She never started an investigation. There is still no conclusion to the 5 (five) month investigation by the Knox County School system. Students are still being bullied and abused by these staff members.

Sincerely, Christian Seus (POA C.F.)

To: Knox County Schools 5/10/2012 Dr. Jim McIntyre, Susan Crabtree


I have been trying to ask some basic questions surrounding teacher of the year, nominations and how to to get teacher of the year status removed. After a 30 day time frame of asking, I have been given no answers. I was told by Mr. Hedgepeth to contact the Principal of the school because the principal of the school would only know how that specific school chooses teacher of the year. I did that, and Ms. Winstead said, "For any information regarding Bearden middle please contact Knox county's law department. I believe they are aware of your protest."

It has been about a month since first asking some generic questions and protest regarding Teacher of the Year Robin Morton with no answers from the school board, school principals or school administrators. This lack of communication is unacceptable. Just this week, I was finally sent some communication that the law office may answer my questions. I only had a few basic questions, but since they went unanswered, I am providing a more detailed request below.

For the purpose of this request the word "document" is defined in the above statute, and "isolation" is defined in Tennessee Statute 49-10-1303(4)(a) and 49-10-1304. Robin Morton is a teacher at Bearden Middle School and she was awarded Teacher of the Year.

Pursuant to the state open records law, Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 10-7-503 to 10-7-512; 10-7-701 to 10-7-702; and 10-8-101 to 10-8-103, I write to request to view the following documents as they related to Knox County Schools:

1. all policies regarding teacher of the year in effect during the 2011 and 2012 school year;
2. all policies regarding teacher of the year at Bearden Middle School in effect during the 2011 and 2012 school year;
3. all procedures regarding teacher of the year for in effect during the 2011 and 2012 school year;
4. all procedures regarding teacher of the year at Bearden Middle School in effect during the 2011 and 2012 school year;
5. all teacher of the year related documents for Bearden Middle School for the 2011 to 2013 school years;
6. all teacher of the year related documents regarding Teacher of the Year, Robin Morton from 2010 to 2013;
7. all nomination documents for teacher of the year at Bearden Middle School for the 2011 to 2013 school years;
8. all selection committee documents regarding teacher of the year at Bearden Middle School for the 2011 to 2013 school years;
9. all nominations for Robin Morton, Teacher of the year for 2011-2013;
10. all voting documents for Robin Morton, Teacher of the year for 2011-2013;
11. all evaluations for Robin Morton from Jan 1. 2010 to the date of this request;
12. all to and from emails regarding Robin Morton and teacher of the year;
13. all to and from emails regarding teacher of the year at Bearden Middle School from January 1, 2010 to May 31 2012;
14. all discipline documents regarding Robin Morton;
15. all training documents for Robin Morton within the past 6 months;
16. all complaints regarding Robin Morton;
17. all procedures to remove teacher of the year status at Knox County Schools;
18. all procedures to remove teacher of the year status Bearden Middle School;
19. procedures regarding a parent complaint to a principal regarding suspected abuse by a teacher at that principal's school;
20. all policies regarding a parent complaint to a principal regarding suspected abuse by a teacher at that principal's school;
21. all school policies and procedures regarding finding a teacher in violation of isolating a special needs student;
22. all school policies and procedures regarding finding a teacher in violation of isolating a non-special needs student;
23. Provide all Behavior Intervention Training related documents for Robin Morton.
24. Provide all documents of reports and notices regarding isolation by Robin Morton from Jan 1, 2008 to May 10th 2012.

For the purposes of this request, please use Tennessee Statute 49-10- 1304 (d)(e) (1) and (b)(d) (1) as a guide to determine the definition of "reports" and "notices". I understand that personal information and juvenile names will be redacted.

If any of these policies or procedures are available for viewing online, please provide the exact website address or link to the specific policy or procedure. I am not able to find the specific policies after looking on the Knox County Schools website.

If your agency does not maintain these public records, please let me know who does and include the proper custodian's name and address. I am a Knoxville Resident. If some of the documents are ready to be viewed before others, please let me know so that those can be viewed as soon as possible. If these records are available on CD that would be the best way to view them. I understand that juvenile names will be redacted.

I request your response within seven (7) business days. Per §10-7-503. Failure to respond to this request within 7 days is considered a denial of this request.

If you choose to deny any of the above requests, please provide a written explanation for the denial including a reference to the specific statutory exemption(s) upon which you rely.

Please be advised that I am prepared to pursue whatever legal remedy necessary to obtain access to the requested records. I would note that the knowing and willful violation of the open records law can result in the award of all reasonable costs involved in obtaining the records, including attorney fees. Thank you for your assistance.

Christian Seus (POA CF)

Published May 18, 2012

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The opinions expressed on this page are the personal opinions of the writer and not necessarily the opinions of the Knoxville Daily Sun.


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