Tenure Laws Tie Hands


A persistent little reporter from WJHL created quite a stir in Hawkins County this afternoon when she spent some time bouncing around the Hawkins Elementary School car-rider’s pick-up line asking parents what they thought about last Tuesday’s (2/3) arrest of the 4th grade Science/Social Studies teacher.

Most of them knew nothing about it.

Apparently, while we parents and kiddies were off enjoying our snow days, Veleka Setsor was embroiled in some type of domestic dispute with her 18-year-old daughter, Cheyenne.  According to the police report, the victim told and HCSO officer that  her mother demanded that she  leave the residence and then retrieved from a bedroom “what appeared to be a rifle.”  At that point, the mother allegedly threatened to kill her.  Setsor claims the “rifle” was actually a pellet gun.

Last I heard, the reporter was still trucking around town trying to obtain a copy of the 911 tape or locate a harried, outraged parent to put on camera.  I’ll tune in at 11 o’clock  and try to catch it – or a repeat of it.  Since I overheard many of the comments from parents, I’m curious to see what will be aired and how the piece will be edited.   It’s a unique position being the watcher of the reporter and a consumer of the news.

As for the school,  to my understanding, they’ve placed another adult in the classroom with Setsor until the issue is resolved.   Beyond this, there isn’t much they can do.  Setsor is a tenured teacher.   This means she cannot be fired unless the school board has an airtight, iron-clad, lawsuit-proof  reason – like she robbed a bank and was convicted, threw a keg party in the gym, or voted for Obama… Okay, they can’t really fire her for the Obama thing… they’d have to frame her for the bank robbery first.

Tennessee state law outlines the five acceptable reasons a  tenured teacher may be dismissed: Incompetence – incapability of a teacher to  perform because of mental, physical, professional, personal, educational, and/or  emotional factors. Inefficiency – being below the standards of efficiency maintained by others currently employed by the board for similar work, or habitually tardy, inaccurate, or ineffective performance. Neglect of duty – gross or repeated failure to perform reasonably expected duties and responsibilities, or continued unexcused or unnecessary absence. Unprofessional conduct – includes immorality, conviction of a felony or crime involving moral turpitude, willful failure or  refusal to pay one’s debts, disregard of the Tennessee Education Association code of ethics, or improper use of narcotics or intoxicants. Insubordination – may consist of: 1) failure to obey rules, regulations, and laws set by the state and local school boards, 2) failure to participate in in-service training, 3) treason, or 4) refusal to disclose participation in communist or other parties interested in the overthrow of the government. 5.  Denial, suspension or revocation of a license or certificate in another jurisdiction for reasons which would justify denial, suspension or revocation under this rule.

I think they’ve since added  noncompliance with security guidelines for TCAP or defaulting on a student loan.

Of course, I’m not defending Setsor.  I don’t know her.  My kids haven’t made it to that grade level – and I can’t say whether she is or is not a good teacher.  What I can say is this:  According to Tennessee State law, the Hawkins County School system has no legal reason to fire her.

I caught the report online.   Oh Melissa Hipolit, what are you doing? Out of the long, long lines of parents – we’re talking over 50 Mommy Mobiles – and after all that coaxing, these are the few parents, who offered up comments to complement the story?   Not only are those comments heavily edited, there’s no mention of tenure, no explanation of why the teacher can’t be dismissed or under what circumstances she can.  And Hipolit says: this is “something the school system never made them aware of”  School started back today: and how exactly would the school system make parents aware of the pending charges.   Should they send home a letter?  Given that the incident did not occur at school or involve a student and she hasn’t been CONVICTED – only charged –  are they permitted to do this?  AND FINALLY, you didn’t bother to include the cute chubby-cheeked toddler, who was so excited to be on TV.  I’ll bet she’s disappointed.  So am I.

Oh well, at least Miss Tracy looked cute and Smartypants’ feet were on TV. We’re so proud.


2 thoughts on “Tenure Laws Tie Hands

  1. Most mothers of 18 year old daughters will understand the death threat…

    Maybe someday Amanda and Jessica will tell you the story of the day i sat them on the sofa and then beat the tar out of the club chair because i was too angry at them to spank them.

  2. Yes, the grown daughters of most mothers have heard those “death threats” – perhaps as frequently as we’ve heard: “You’re not leaving this house in that get-up.” And there are other reasons I suspect the charge will be reduced or dropped.

    This is not to say she shouldn’t be suspended or some other action taken. I’m simply pointing out there is a process the county must go through in order to do this.

    Parents running off, half-cocked and a bit crazed, to the Hill with few facts but lots of third-hand information culled from the pages of Topix isn’t going to get anything accomplished. Quite often, it’s easier to initiate change or take action if you understand the system you’re bucking and work within it to some degree.

    I’m not entirely sure tenure should be scrapped either. Seems as though the laws do serve to prevent politically motivated mass firings or staff changes with each newly elected school board or appointed Director. In Hawkins County, such protections are probably necessary.

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