Teacher resigns after incident with student

Published 5:45 pm Thursday, May 20, 2010

Community Editor

Washington High School music director Chris Stanton voluntarily resigned from his position Monday following an earlier incident with a student.
The incident, which happened shortly before the school day ended May 13, involved Stanton grabbing a female student. That student, in turn, bit Stanton, who yelled an obscenity.
“I reached for a child, and I shouldn’t have done that,” Stanton said. “Should I be punished? Yes. Do I think I’m being punished harshly? Yes.”
The student in question is the stepdaughter of former Washington High School music director Ken Polk.
Asked about the incident Wednesday afternoon, Polk said, “We can’t comment on it, yet.”
“There are a lot of rumors,” he said. “We need to clear the air, but we’re not ready to do that quite yet.”
After meeting with Beaufort County Schools officials Monday, Stanton said he was given the option to voluntarily resign, or have the case heard before the school board.
He resigned.
“Yes, I did something wrong, but they were a little hasty in their decision,” Stanton said Wednesday morning.
Stanton could have been fired had the Beaufort County Board of Education ruled against him in the matter.
Minnie Norris, whose daughter was in Stanton’s show-choir class, believes the school did a poor job of investigating the incident.
“Our opinion, and we’ve expressed this to (Washington High School principal) Mr. (Russell) Holloman, is that no one felt it was investigated very thoroughly,” she said. “I’m dismayed over the situation, and the school’s handling of it.”
Norris said her daughter and fellow show-choir students admired Stanton. She said his hard work and dedication warranted more than what she called a “quick, 20-minute investigation.”
“Good teachers are hard to find,” she added.
In a show of support for her teacher, Norris’ daughter started a petition Monday morning in support of Stanton.
“Within a matter of hours, she had several pages of student signatures,” said Norris. “She and her friends think the world of him.”
Norris said she gave her daughter’s petition, as well as a letter, to Beaufort County Schools Assistant Superintendent John Conway prior to his meeting with Stanton on Monday afternoon.
“He (Conway) had assured me that the letter and signatures would be taken into account,” she said.
Norris said that the administration at Washington High School, as well as the Beaufort County Schools administration, showed little support for Stanton following the incident.
“It’s somewhat discerning to all of us, as parents,” she said. “I feel like, if I were a teacher, I’d be left out to dry.”
Sarah Hodges, public information officer for Beaufort County Schools, said the school system would not comment on whether any disciplinary action was taken against the student involved in the incident.
On Wednesday morning, Stanton said he was looking for a job in the area. He said that if he couldn’t find another job soon, he and his wife would be forced to move.
As for the incident, he said, “I want to put it behind me.”
“I’m grateful for everyone that has supported me through this difficult time. Unfortunately, I work in a profession where you’re guilty until proven less guilty,” he added.
Stanton’s comments came during a telephone interview with the Washington Daily News. During that interview, he said his comments could be used for publication. Shortly after the interview was completed, he telephoned the newspaper and asked that his comments be stricken from the record.
Stanton taught music appreciation, concert band and show choir at Washington High School. The end-of-the-year band concert, which features the show choir and concert band, will be held as scheduled Tuesday evening in the school’s auditorium, Hodges said.