Hillsboro Educators and Dr. Looney Cleared of All Wrongdoing

The outside lawyers hired by WCS have released the findings from their three-month investigation of Hillsboro educators. The investigators noted that the educators engaged in free speech outside school hours and off school premises and concluded that there was no wrongdoing of any kind by any of those under investigation.

Specifically,

  • No administrator compelled subordinates to attend a political meeting on or off school grounds or otherwise violated WCS policy or state law.
  • There was no improper use of government resources.
  • There was no claim of grievance, hostile work environment, or retaliatory conduct.
  • Dr. Looney did not engage in any political activity in violation of WCS policy or state law.
  • Dr. Looney did not engage in “conduct that could be considered disloyal to the Board.”

So nobody did anything wrong. Well, at least nobody under investigation did anything wrong.

We look forward to a public apology from the board to the teachers and administrators at Hillsboro School.    

This invasive, disruptive, and terrifying investigation of employees was kicked off because elected officials (school board members) objected to some things teachers said about them while the teachers were not at work. We consider being investigated (with your job at stake!) for political opinions and speech a violation of basic American freedoms that we all consider sacred.

After legal objections from the ACLU, the rationale, scope, subject, and targets of the investigation changed in multiple ways. (See “The Hillsboro Investigation Part 2” for more information.)

We are very glad that the staff at Hillsboro no longer has this hanging over their heads; we have seen some of the destruction this has wrought, and it is deeply upsetting.

Below are some questions that remain:

The secret recording

  • How was the teacher who secretly recorded the other teachers connected to board member(s) and when?
  • Was she recruited/pressured to do the recording or to release it?
  • How did a board member’s husband acquire the tape and post an enhanced version of the audio on YouTube the morning the story broke?

Why Hillsboro?

  • Were Hillsboro educators targeted because Williamson Strong founders have kids there?

The start of the investigation

  • How did this investigation get off the ground?
  • What story were board members told (and by whom) told about the audio to get the legal dollars flowing?

What was really being investigated?

  • Why were educators asked to name who was at an after work meeting and identify who said what?
  • Why were educators asked to identify what they said and why? How was this not an infringement into their free speech?

Was this a coordinated campaign?

  • 912 President J. Lee Douglas wrote that he was in possession of three recordings.
  • Did three different teachers somehow spontaneously decide to secretly record their peers and—also spontaneously—get these recordings to the 912 Project President (and also—another coincidence—to the Professional Educators of Tennessee)?

Who added an investigation into “disloyalty” by Dr. Looney?

  • Who approved and drove that and when did that happen?
  • Was the public ever informed of that investigation?
  • Who determined that “disloyalty” consisted of communications between Williamson Strong public school parents and Dr. Looney?
  • What authority does the board have to investigate parents and their communications for the entire year (September 2014 to June 2015)?
  • Should Williamson Strong parents consider ourselves under permanent investigation by our own local government? Under what legal authority?
  • Vice Chair Beth Burgos said in a 4/11 email that Williamson Strong parents were “under investigation.” Why? Who approved of that scope of the investigation into public school parents?

Who was in control of this investigation?

  • Why was this investigation never voted on by the board?
  • Why did Vice Chair Beth Burgos send an email on 4/6 excluding Bobby Hullett, Rick Wimberly, and Dr. Looney from discussions about the tape?
  • Were all board member involved in writing the questions—all the questions—or just some board members? When will the public get to see the interrogation questions?
  • Why were educators asked about their friendships with specific parents? How was this germane to the investigation?
  • How, when, and why did the scope, subject, and targets of this investigation change?
  • Were all conflicts of interest disclosed? Did those writing the questions for the staff have any animus toward Hillsboro? Were all such relationships disclosed?
  • When will the public see unredacted legal bills and know the total cost of this investigation?

Going forward

  • What is district’s response to staff members who secretly record their peers after work? This was assumed by several board to be a heroic act. Is that the policy of WCS now?
  • What is the district’s response to a board member who was involved in putting district staff on the radio and on YouTube without their consent?
  • What is the district policy regarding investigating WCS parents?
  • What will trigger the next investigation?
  • What if a teacher disagrees publicly with the board? Can he/she expect to be investigated?
  • What will the school board do with the inappropriately collected information based on hours of interrogation of educators?
  • What measures will the school board take to ensure that educators are not subjected to similar treatment in the future?

 

See The Hillsboro Investigation Part 1 and Part 2 for background information.

Read the final Hillsboro investigation report.

See Dr. Looney’s 7/20 statement on the investigation.

 

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