CHAPIN, SC (WIS) - As the days get closer to some sort of resolution in the matter of a Midlands High School teacher who many say stomped on a flag in front of his classes last year, correspondence between the superintendent and the accused educator shows the district believes this wasn't the first bad decision he made. The teacher's attorney says the superintendent's allegations are unsubstantiated and undocumented.
In a letter to Scott Compton, Lexington-Richland School District Five Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hefner outlines another decision the Chapin High School teacher made that prompted him to recommend the educator be fired.
The district placed Compton on paid suspension in December after he allegedly threw down an American flag and stomped on it in front of his classes as part of a symbolism lesson.
"Since I met with you in early January, it also has come to my attention that the incident involving your treatment of the flag is not the first time you have failed to demonstrate sound professional judgment in connection with your performance of your job responsibilities," wrote Hefner in an amended January 15 letter to Compton outlining his reasons to terminate the educator. An initial January 10 termination letter mentioned only the flag incident.
That incident, according to Hefner, was Compton's apparent decision to allow an advertisement for an alcoholic beverage in a February 2012 edition of the Chapin High School student newspaper. "As I understand it, you admitted that in hindsight, you should not have allowed the advertisement in question to run in the student paper," wrote Hefner.
The publication in question included a "Leap Year Cocktail" that gives the origin of a drink a bartender created in 1928 for leap year celebrations. The article also includes ingredients including gin, Grand Marnier and sweet vermouth and instructions to "shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass."
The cocktail information and instructions are part of a larger supplement originally published by McClatchy-Tribune in February, 2008.
Attorney Darryl Smalls says the decision to publish the student paper including the alcohol reference was not Compton's. "The complete truth is no disciplinary action has ever been taken against my client prior to the symbolism lesson."
"The amended termination letter is nothing more that an attempt to justify Mr. Compton's termination and signifies the weakness in the original letter of termination," wrote Smalls in a statement. "This is simply a ploy to pull at any straw the district can find to discredit and terminate Mr. Compton. The fact of the matter is that in 7 years at Chapin, the only time he was ever called in for reprimand was December 13, 2012. Even at this time, his principal, Mr. Akil Ross stated that Mr. Compton was one of his best teachers."
The added offense, says Smalls, refers to an information flier that hundreds of high school newspapers use nationwide. The district pays for the supplement, Smalls said.
According to Smalls, the school's principal had final approval and the oversight was not Compton's fault. "After this incident, we have e-mails from Principal Ross stating this was not Mr. Compton's fault as he took full responsibility," wrote Smalls. "In an e-mail to the Chapin High School staff on February 29, 2012 Ross stated the following: 'During the editing process of the school newspaper, I failed to focus on the purchased advertisements/inserts. I only reviewed student work. As a result, inappropriate material has been printed in our newspaper.'"
Smalls also says Ross, in an email, told Compton the students at Chapin High need him. According to Smalls, the principal wrote: "You are one of the best teachers I have ever worked with and I truly respect you. Your leadership on The Claw has brought so much to this school and the students you serve. I do not want you to apologize. I want you to keep the fight for literature and self expression."
Compton and Smalls have requested a closed hearing to appeal Hefner's recommendation for termination.
"We look forward to addressing Dr. Hefner's allegations in our hearing before the board," wrote Smalls. "We are now exploring every legal option to defend Mr. Compton's reputation and his legal rights.
That hearing has been tentatively scheduled for March 5, according to district spokesperson Mark Bounds.