Blevins: policy forbids Alexander's appeal

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   A school policy separating harassment from employee grievance procedures prohibits Elizabethton High School Principal Edwin Alexander from appealing his suspension before the Board of Education, according to Dr. Judy Blevins, ECS director of schools.
   Alexander was suspended without pay from the high school on Monday. The decision set off an uproar among scores of students who walked out of class on Tuesday morning. Students have continued to protest the decision on city streets throughout Wednesday.
   Regarding Alexander's suspension, the question most frequently asked by students and parents was, why? Blevins said Wednesday the decision was based on an investigation into a grievance filed by the high school's director of vocational education, Adeline Hyder, against Alexander in November 2000.
   Citing the report of an attorney who investigated a grievance filed against Alexander in November 2002, Blevins said school board Policy No. 5.501 made a distinction between the board's two separate grievance processes.
   In a letter to Alexander on Wednesday, Blevins said school policy No. 5.501 contains an employment-related grievance process and a harassment/discrimination grievance process.
   Blevins's letter states: "Ms. Hyder did not accuse you of harassment or discrimination" based on suspect classifications of the latter process. Thus, procedures of the board do not apply in this case, Blevins writes.
   She states that she suspended Alexander based on a state law that, "permits a director of schools to suspended any teacher without pay pending an investigation into whether grounds exist to terminate the teacher's employment."
   "Consequently, you have no grounds at this time to appeal either my decision regarding Ms. Hyder's grievance or your suspension," Blevins writes.
   The next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the ECS administration building.
   Speaking to the Star on Wednesday, Blevins said there was no agenda item involving Alexander that would be brought before the board at this month's meeting. She also said that she had spoken with Alexander regarding the appeals process and thanked him for encouraging students to return to school on a local radio station.
   Regarding the timing of the suspension, Blevins said Duggan's report was released on Feb. 10, 2003.
   She refused to speculate on whether Alexander would or would not take part in the high school's graduation ceremony on May 26.
   Hyder alleged harassment by Alexander by his questioning her integrity, her friendship with Blevins, and her ejection from the high school.
   Attorney David E. Duggan of Maryville submitted his findings in the Hyder complaint last month. According to the findings of Duggan's report, he found Alexander had improperly confronted Hyder about her attendance at a workshop in Gatlinburg.
   Duggan's findings also alleged it was inappropriate for Alexander to question Ms. Hyder's loyalty and her friendship with Blevins.
   The loyalty issue was raised in Duggan's investigation involved an alleged conference between Hyder and Alexander. In her grievance, Hyder alleged Alexander had questioned her loyalty to him. Duggan's report states that two "independent persons" witnessed a conference between Alexander and Hyder in which Alexander allegedly asked her if she was "loyal to him."
   Duggan's report does not name the two persons who allegedly heard that statement from Alexander to Hyder.
   Alexander adamantly denied he ever asked Hyder if she was loyal to him when he spoke to the Star on Wednesday. The Principal has denied all allegations made by Hyder in her complaint.