Houston County School Board

Rodreshia Russaw of TOPS addresses citizens and Houston County Board of Education members during the Dec. 11 meeting.

JAY HARE/DOTHAN EAGLE

Three Ashford High School teachers were eventually placed on 10 days’ unpaid leave after a leaked text chain discussing students went viral on social media, gaining the attention of national news outlets and advocacy organizations.

As many as five teachers and one substitute teacher were part of a group message titled “Bad A B’s” making commentary about students. One student was called a racial slur, with a teacher remarking that he was “too slow to walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Teachers also commented on students’ pregnancies, sex lives and relationships.

After a quick investigation, Houston County Superintendent David Sewell placed the three Ashford teachers on three weeks paid administrative leave Nov. 18 while giving them to time to prepare legal defenses for a hearing.

During that time, the incident attracted the attention of the leaders of local advocacy organizations TOPS and the NAACP, who vowed action against the Houston County Board of Education if the teachers were not terminated.

Ultimately, three teachers — Julee Lasseter, Tambria McCardle and Kim Worsham — were given 10 days’ unpaid leave in a 5-1 vote among board members at a brief meeting Dec. 11.

Voting in favor of the resolution were Vince Wade, Ricky Moore, Marty Collins, Gary Cox and Scott Thomas. David Hollinger voted against the resolution, and Chris Lasseter abstained. Lasseter’s wife is one of the accused.

Sewell also said there would be diversity training for all board employees to be made available to board members as well.

After the meeting, Chairman Marty Collins gave apparently disappointed attendees the floor to air their grievances. For around an hour, many voiced concerns that the students were being put back into a hostile learning environment, while several indicated their belief that there was a deeper problem of systemic racism within the school district.

Sewell responded that neither the board’s attorney, Kevin Walding, nor other state education attorneys recommended termination as a punishment.

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