By mtjulietintern

Wilson County Chancellor C.K. Smith handed down a decision last week to reduce the punishment for former Tuckers Crossroads School teacher Matthew Mock.

The Wilson County school board originally voted to fire Mock from his position at the school in 2015 after Mock and two other school employees engaged in school-wide pranks at the end of the year.

According to a statement from Wilson County Schools, Mock and two other faculty members who were not tenured were cited for:

• placing a lotion-type substance on classroom door handles and a time clock.

• turning over chairs and desks in a classroom.

• taking vehicle keys and moving the vehicles without permission.

• taking Styrofoam packing peanuts that were school property and putting them in the car of one of the victims.

In response to his termination, Mock and his attorney, Michael Clemons, appealed the decision. Hearing officer Robert Wheeler Jr. ruled Mock should not be fired for his participation in the pranks.

However, Wheeler ruled, “Mr. Mock be suspended from his duties with the Wilson County School System without pay from the beginning of the 2015-16 school year until the end of the first semester. This decision is not to be construed to tell the school administration where Mr. Mock should teach.”

The school board then voted to uphold Wheeler’s ruling. Board member Wayne McNeese and former board member Don Weathers voted against upholding the ruling, citing the punishment was too harsh.

McNeese and board member Linda Armistead also discussed court transcripts in regard to charges of racial discrimination, which Wheeler found unproven.

Wheeler said in his order, “Mr. Mock described his relationship with Ms. Powell as one of great respect and stated that she was a wonderful teacher. One of his daughters was especially attached to Ms. Powell. When asked by the hearing officer if she was scared on May 28, Ms. Powell replied that she was ‘aggravated. Uncomfortable, yes. Disgusted.’ She testified more than once that she did not view the actions toward her that day to be race-based.”

“I can’t support taking six months of pay away from Mr. Mock when his offense, according to Judge Wheeler, is not worse than the offense that employee committed driving under the influence of alcohol and only getting five days off,” said Weathers, who referred to a past incident that involved Watertown High School teacher.

Parties involved in the case presented their arguments in December 2015 before the board, and Clemons said the only issue he sought to appeal on behalf of Mock is Wheeler’s recommendation of a semester suspension without pay.

“I simply ask that the recommended discipline of one semester without pay be revised to a written reprimand, or at most, five days without pay,” Clemons said during the meeting.

Clemons and Mock took the case to Wilson County chancery court this year.

“The chancellor came back with his decision, and he reduced that suspension from one semester to five days,” said Wilson County Schools attorney Mike Jennings. “So, the school board, director and myself will be evaluating that to figure out where we go next.”

Jennings said the school board’s appeal of the chancellor’s decision is a possibility.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com