Suspended teacher remains in limbo

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The future remains uncertain for a Marshall County High School teacher who was suspended without pay almost two months ago.

But recently, a job opening for an interim teacher to work in that position was posted, although, "That doesn't mean she's not coming back," the schools director said.

Friday, when asked for an update on Rebecca Fergerson's case, schools director Roy Dukes said he couldn't make any comments "because it is still under the investigative process."

When asked if Fergerson had resigned, Dukes paused for a moment and said, "No."

"I want both sides to be professional," Dukes said, as he dodged attempts to obtain more information. He also refused to speculate on how much longer the investigation might last.

Fergerson's work at MCHS has been done by a substitute teacher, and by the other special education teachers, Dukes explained.

Therefore, several people have done the work of one special education teacher, as well as dealing with their own responsibilities.

"The special investigative unit is still looking at it," said Rob Johnson of the Department of Children's Services, the state agency investigating a January complaint revealed nearly two months ago.

"We try to close cases within 60 days," Johnson continued, explaining that this is their policy.

Because there may be medical tests, psychological tests, and interviews, Johnson said, an investigation can take some time.

DCS would be looking for evidence of child abuse or neglect, Johnson said, while police would try to discover if any laws had been broken, and the school system would be checking to see if any of its policies or rules had been violated.

A Child Protective Investigative Team might discuss a case with members of law enforcement and the district attorney's office, Johnson added.

Fergerson was "suspended without pay for allegations of inappropriate conduct with students and (alleged) assault on students in the classroom," according to Dukes' Jan. 28 report to the state Education Department's Teacher Licensing Office.

The suspension came after MCHS School Resource Officer Billy Ostermann and Principal Keith Stacey pursued a complaint that, according to WSMV-TV, Fergerson was allegedly using a device that could deliver a shock in her special education classroom.

"The information I have is that it did not put out any current," Lewisburg Police Department Detective Scott Braden said last week. There was "nothing dangerous or hazardous at the school," Braden said.