A Monroe County county commissioner has been suspended from his teaching job following an incident at a state training session in Anderson County last week.
Outgoing Director of Schools Tim Blankenship suspended Samuel Brian Harrill on Thursday, June 20, without pay pending an investigation into the incident after he said he received a formal complaint regarding Harrill’s conduct at a State Standards Training at Anderson County High School on June 19.
In documentation that The Advocate & Democrat obtained through an open records request, the complaint states that Harrill approached a group of ladies unsolicited and informed them that, “They didn’t know who they were dealing with.” Harrill allegedly continued to inform them that he was “wanted by law enforcement and even the FBI,” and that he had a permit to carry a firearm.
“At one point, you even made a shooting gesture aimed at one of the ladies,” wrote Blankenship. “This gesture was witnessed by several individuals and your actions were reported to the state facilitator. After the facilitator consulted with the direct supervisor at the state, you were asked by officers to leave the training and not return. At this point, you were escorted from the building.”
The Advocate & Democrat confirmed this incident through the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. On June 19 at around 1:06 p.m., Deputy Brian Templeton said he received a complaint from Principal Ben Downs in regards to a suspect needing to be removed from the Anderson County High School property. According to the incident report, Templeton said he made contact with the complainant and Lisa Weathers, the facilitator for the Tennessee Department of Education’s training, which was being held through June 21 at that location.
Templeton said it was explained to him that Harrill had made some statements and gestures, which caused others to feel concerned. The report stated that Downs and Weathers felt the best course of action would be to remove Harrill from the training.
At their request, Templeton said he made contact with Harrill and escorted him off the Anderson County High School property, placing him on a no trespass list at the school through the end of training on June 21.
Blankenship said pursuant to Monroe County Board of Education Policy No. 5.200, the director of schools can suspend a tenured teacher at any time when deemed necessary for conduct unbecoming to a member of the teaching profession.
“I expect the highest standards of professional conduct at all times from all Monroe County School System employees,” wrote Blankenship. “To require anything less would be a violation of the public’s trust.”
Harrill signed that he received the reprimand letter on June 20 at 1:22 p.m., but noted he “did not agree with all the wording.”
Harrill is not allowed on school grounds at any time during his suspension period. He is asked to provide a written response within 60 days of the June 20 letter from Blankenship. After 60 days, the reprimand letter from Blankenship and Harrill’s response will be placed in his personnel file.
According to Harrill’s personnel files, this is not his first reprimand for unethical conduct.
On Aug. 16, 2018, Harrill received a written notice of “inappropriate and unprofessional comments made to a colleague” while he was working as a RTI teacher at Vonore Elementary School.
According to the letter with the 2018 incident, Harrill was documented for entering the classroom and yelling at a teacher and students on three accounts. In addition, the letter signed by then RTI Coordinator Angie Garrett said Harrill had been using his cellphone during work periods.
“After not paying attention during summer training, for which you were being reimbursed $200 per day, Angie Garrett orally reprimanded you for inappropriate use of cellphone,” the letter stated. “Teachers have reported personal use of cellphone while students were waiting for testing. Documentation has been received that you were watching bass fishing videos on the cellphone while colleagues were helping test students. Assisting with testing is one of your responsibilities.”
In September 2010, Harrill also received a written reprimand from then K-8 Supervisor of Instruction Sharon Benton for allegedly picking up a desk with a student still in it and moving it across the classroom because the student was misbehaving.
Blankenship said he turned in notification of Harrill’s suspension to state education officials, as per policy. Because Blankenship’s contract as director of schools expires on June 30, the ultimate decision of Harrill’s future with the Monroe County School System will be left in the hands of incoming Director of Schools Dr. DeAnna McClendon.
Harrill was a RTI instructor at Vonore Elementary last school year, but he is set to move into a teaching role at the Alternative School in the 2019-20 school year.