Williamson County School Board Stonewalls Public, Votes Unanimously to Support Superintendent Looney, Arrested for Assault Last Week

FRANKLIN, Tennessee–The Williamson County School Board held a special meeting Monday night in Franklin, and voted unanimously to issue a statement of support for embattled Superintendent of Schools Mike Looney, who was arrested last week on assault charges. The vote was 12 to zero.

The highly choreographed meeting lasted barely half an hour, and left many in the estimated crowd of 100 members of the public in attendance frustrated, as they were not permitted to speak or ask questions of the board during the meeting or prior to the vote.

Williamson County School Board Chairman Gary Anderson began the meeting by reading, in its entirety, the statement of support, which, after one small amendment, was unanimously approved by the Board.

During the discussion period, Board Member Eric Welch said “As a parent of a Williamson County Schools student, if my child ever has a psychologically stressful situation in school, I hope that Mike Looney is present,” a remark that caused audible ripples of laughter and headshaking in the crowd.

One remarkable admission was made by the School Board in the statement: There is currently no governing law in the state of Tennessee that addresses the issue of how a Superintendent of Schools is to be dealt with when they are charged with a criminal offense.

Natalie Pearce, one of the one hundred people in the audience who were not allowed to ask questions or make public comments during the meeting, expressed her dissatisfaction with the School Board’s decision.

“How I feel about this is, regardless of the situation, we still don’t have the facts to the public. The School Board is privy to the facts, we are not privy to all of the video. We have not seen the video. So until we do, I don’t understand why he’s at work,” Pearce said of Superintendent Looney.

“A teacher, someone I really support, Melanie Lemon, has not been given that grace. It’s a double standard,” Pearce added, referring to a teacher who was accused of assaulting a child, and was suspended by Looney, reportedly without any evidence to support the charges against her, according to her supporters.

Another member of the audience also expressed profound dissatisfaction with the School Board’s decision.

“My question is, [why is] there no public interaction here, to be able to ask questions over the situation?” he asked

“It’s not as simple as just protecting a girl’s privacy.There’s things about him taking this girl to his car, and what was the purpose of that? Overriding the police,” he continued.

“There’s a lot to be asked here. I’m just really disappointed,” he concluded.

As Board members exited after the meeting was adjourned, they were terse, and offered no comments when asked if they had seen the entire video of the incident.

Here is the final version of the statement of support, as approved unanimously by the Board :

As many of you know, Dr. Looney, WCS’s Superintendent of Schools, was served last Wednesday evening with a warrant alleging misdemeanor assault, and the Williamson County Board of Education has been told that litigation has also been threatened against it related to this allegation.

The Board works to ensure the safety and well-being of all its students. Every decision it makes has this in mind. As part of this, the Board talks all allegations against its employees, including its Superintendent, seriously. The Board recognizes that it is not the final decision-maker with respect to any criminal charge, but it does have responsibility as the employer of the Superintendent to make decisions related to his employment, especially when an allegation of wrongdoing is made.

Each of us has received requests from some members of the public asking for Dr. Looney to be terminated or suspended from his employment, asking what Dr. Looney’s contract says about issues like this, how WCS’ HR Department would handle such an allegation against any other employee, what our policy is on this, etc.

When any WCS employee other than the Superintendent is the subject of any employment-related allegation, WCS’ Human Resources Department immediately looks for whatever information is available related to the allegation and makes a recommendation to the Superintendent on whether to suspend the employee pending investigation based on the available facts and two main questions:

(1) If the employee stays in their job during an investigation, will the employee’s presence risk continued inappropriate action if the allegation is true? and

(2) Might the employee’s continued presence at work interfere with an investigation? We believe that we as a Board should as much as we reasonably can follow the principles our Human Resources Department follows. In addition, I have consulted with the Deputy Executive Director and Legal Counsel of the Tennessee School Boards Association who shared there is no statewide procedure regarding a superintendent in this type of situation.

Dr. Looney’s contract includes an employment termination process with or without cause but doesn’t address any process related to suspension. If we believed Dr. Looney acted inappropriately based on the facts available to us, we could immediately start the termination process. In addition to termination with or without case, we could ask Dr. Looney to take a leave of absence pending this charge. This request would be outside the terms of his contract.

Most if not All of the Board members have by the time of this meeting reviewed WCS’ security video regarding the alleged incident. The video contains some FERPA-protected personally identifiable student information, so we cannot simply release everything we have to the public. Also, in the interest of student privacy, we cannot at this time speak to all the details of the alleged incident and may never be able be able to speak to all those details. We understand that this may be frustrating, but please understand that we must respect these rights for all students, all the time.

Based on the information we have been provided, it appears that Dr. Looney did not act inappropriately and was within the discretion of an administrator in an effort to defuse a difficult situation, in the interest of student safety, and we believe that his continuing in his work will not interfere with any investigation. Based on all the information available to the Board at this time and in honoring our HR Department’s process, we cannot at this time justify asking Dr. Looney to take a leave of absence pending this criminal charge. We believe that has continued presence as Superintendent at this time is in the best interest of WCS students. We fully recognize that the public has not had access to all the information available to the Board and might come to a different conclusion based on what they have heard, but we must base our decisions on the information available to us at the time decisions are made. Based on information available to us, we continue to place our confidence in Dr. Looney’s leadership in our School District. We look forward to the legal process continuing.

The statement made no reference to the affidavit of complaint filed by two members of the Franklin Police Department, which described the incident quite differently, as articulated last week in this “statement in response to multiple media inquiries regarding today’s arrest of Dr. Mike Looney, Williamson County Schools Superintendent:”

Yesterday, Franklin Police Officers and paramedics were dispatched to Franklin High School for a reported psychological emergency. While working with the student, the student’s mother, and school staff to transport the student to the hospital, Dr. Mike Looney, Williamson County Schools Superintendent, abruptly entered the conference room, grabbed the student by her arm, and forced her out of the school and to his vehicle. Officers intervened and had on-scene paramedics transport the student to the emergency room for evaluation.

Today, those officers consulted with the Williamson County Magistrate, who issued an arrest warrant, charging Dr. Looney with Assault. Dr. Looney surrendered himself at the Williamson County Jail after Franklin Police notified him of the warrant. Looney, charged with assault, is free on the $1,500 bond set by the Magistrate. He is due in court 03/08/18 at 1:00 pm.








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18 Thoughts to “Williamson County School Board Stonewalls Public, Votes Unanimously to Support Superintendent Looney, Arrested for Assault Last Week”

  1. Susan

    Another thing people seem to not mention – the second criteria the board used was “Might the employee’s continued presence at work interfere with an investigation?” I am a WCS parent and I received an email from Carol Birdsong titled “Message from Dr. Looney”, which stated “I completely deny the allegations” – What was the point of that email except to interfere with parents, students and teachers perception of what happened? I asked my school board member if the board had reviewed and approved that message in advance, and what was Dr. Looney’s rationale in sending it – Her response is to “not continue this communication”. I guess that’s the “temperament” they were looking for in the last school board election. Let’s hope we elect leaders next time and not sheeple.

    1. AF

      Exactly. No matter what is really going on with this criminal case, the board’s handling of it shows very clearly where they put WCS parents on the priority list: not worth communication. My representative refuses to respond also.

      This board must go. Every one of them.

  2. John

    It is his own daughter. The mom is his ex wife trying to make his life a living hell.

    1. AF

      I’ll say again, the board could have defused this long ago, but chose not to. A simple ‘personal, private matter’ would have done it. But no, they wanted to get back at parents who have voiced appropriate concerns in the past.

      This board is arrogant, adversarial and view parents as problems. They chose to make this a spectacle. I hope voters remember how the board played with them.

  3. wayne

    should a more serious charge of attempted kidnapping be considered since he forcefully grabbed the female student and took her to his car without her permission, her mother’s permission and in plain view of police officers and medical personnel?

    1. AF

      If the student has no relationship to him, most people would say yes. Since those obvious charges have not been made, we have to guess that this may be his child, which is somewhat more understandable.

      Not understandable, if that is the case, is why the board simply does not diffuse the entire situation by saying it is a private, personal matter.

      This is the board’s game. There is no reason for it, we need a new board.

  4. Debra

    This is utterly ridiculous. Of course this is what the school board would do…there is absolutely more to this story and I’m guessing the taxpayers of Williamson County just have to suck it up and let it go. I just wish someone would dig and find the whole story.

  5. AF

    The official position of the board is that the superintendent did not act inappropriately. If true, we’re left with the parent and police on the scene acting inappropriately. If our police officers are charging people with crimes inappropriately, we have a story here.

    Board members: you are supremely confident in your opinion that the superintendent did not act inappropriately. Please use the same confidence to tell us who did act inappropriately. Was the parent acting inappropriately? Are the Franklin Police inappropriately charging people with crimes? Who was it?

  6. Beth

    If “There is currently no governing law in the state of Tennessee that addresses the issue of how a Superintendent of Schools is to be dealt with when they are charged with a criminal offense,” the School Board should ALWAYS act on the side of caution and protection of the children.

    If the testimony of two eye-witness police officers is that the superintendent should be charged with assault, then the board should act on that information. We are all innocent until proven guilty, but that does not guarantee our right to remain in charge of the school children of the entire county.

    1. Olivia M

      Beth, I understand the questions and concerns but since I wasn’t there to see how the situation unfolded I can only consider what’s been published at this point, like most of us. It sounds to me like the officers involved flatly didn’t like the Superintendent stepping in to override them taking the child into their police car or escorting her out of the school…the appearance of uniformed police officers escorting anyone in any situation is one that gets a lot of attention from onlookers. Surely the officers can understand that. I would much prefer a caring Superintendant say to officers, let me handle this in a less dramatic fashion. It also sounds to me like the mom, God bless her, was possibly panicked, maybe even hysterical over her child’s meltdown. She may have been angry at the child and saying fine- I’ll let the police take you…I don’t know. But if a cooler, calmer authority figure was saying let’s take a breath, go to my office or let me take you both to behavioral professionals to assess, outside of the expense of an ambulance and outside of the scene of police escort that may result in the child’s name being in public record for the incident, then I would much prefer to defer to that calm thinking. The police must understand that if a crime was not in progress and the child’s safety was not a concern then it was best to let a school authorities (as it was unfolding at school) give some options to the mother and child that were less traumatic to all involved. As for the “assault” charge and some folks getting hysterical because he took her arm to lead her….there is a big difference between abusing someone and leading them or directing them with a hand on arm, shoulder, turning someone who is out of their own emotional control to point in a direction away from the area lending to their irrational behavior. I cannot imagine one single parent actually thinks the Superintendent was then or will be out of control and a threat to anyone, least of all students. Even the most irrational in a group knows they don’t have the full story and that it is OK to defer to the professional expertise of the board members who saw the video and made a decision.

      1. AF

        Wow, Olivia, you’re really trying hard here. You criticize others for opining without facts, but your reply is nothing but speculation. That’s fine, but hold yourself to your own standard first. Let’s cover just a few things:

        Franklin Police report that paramedics were already on the scene. The student was not being escorted away to a ‘police car.’

        Check the definition of ‘assault’ in the TN Code. It is not, as you suggest, just abuse:

        (a) A person commits assault who:

        (1) Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another;

        (2) Intentionally or knowingly causes another to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury; or

        (3) Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another and a reasonable person would regard the contact as extremely offensive or provocative.

        The affidavit says that Looney “abruptly entered the conference room, grabbed the student by her arm, and forced her out of the school and to his vehicle.” This, against the will of the parent. Does not sound like the ‘cooler, calmer authority figure’ you fantasize about in your comments.

        Another theme of your comment is that the Franklin Police got their feelings hurt because the superintendent thought he was in charge. You say that there was no crime and the child’s safety was not a concern. How do you know that? Apparently there was a crime and the child’s safety was a concern. NO ONE has the right to put a student in their car and leave campus. Not even the superintendent.

        Lastly, to suggest that the parent was angry at the child and in some way wanted to punish her by letting the police take her is the most absurd thing I’ve heard in this mess. Again, paramedics were on the scene, thankfully over your objection of the

  7. Olivia M

    I’m sorry to have to disagree with some folks who feel strongly the Superintendent is guilty till proven innocent but if it were my child, I would NOT want him/her taken into police custody over a hormonal imbalance moment. Why were the police even called? Schools, to some degree, should behave like a family and try to resolve issues with safety, reason and discretion and not race to call police and put a child’s name in public record as having some sort of unruly moment that may stay with them the rest of their life. If no crime was committed, physical health was not at stake and the student needed behavioral intervention I would much rather the Superintendent assist in getting the child to safe professionals in a discreet way. I question Williamson Co Police jumping the gun on issuing an arrest warrant. The facts are not in. Police may not have made the best choice. The Superindendant should be given due process and be allowed to speak without a mob drowning him out.

    1. Beth

      Read the police statement. The police did not “jump the gun.” They did not arrest him on the spot. They discussed it with the magistrate and later the warrant was issued.

      I agree when you hand your child over to the school, you are giving them a lot of authority over your child. But I would never, ever support any school personnel trying to override the wishes of the parent.

    2. 83ragtop50

      A crime was committed as soon as Mr. Looney put his hands on the student.

  8. Kevin

    Of course the video contains , “FERPA-protected personally identifiable student information” so we can’t see all of the evidence! Why would anybody question why the Superintendent of Schools suddenly appears, grabs a student, and drags HER to HIS car?

    I smell a rat! Actually a “bakers dozen”, maybe more!

  9. Papa

    PARENTS: If your child had a similar situation, what would you do? Common sense is to move the child to a safe place away from the situation that may have caused the problem and separate them from their peers. Had Looney been present and did nothing the same people would still ask for Looney’s removal.

    1. 83ragtop50

      The girl is reported to have been secluded away from her peers, Was being administered to by her mother, the local school administrators, EMT’s and the police. So please explain how you can justify Mr. Looney swooping in, grabbing her by the arm and dragging her to his car while telling her that he is not going to let this kind of stuff happen at one of :”his” schools. Just the kind of behavior that one wants in the leader of the entire school district. He needs to pack his bags and go back to where he came from. He is unstable at best.

  10. 83ragtop50

    I am sure that the members of the “Strong” gang are proud of what they have brought to Williamson County. Just another example of how liberals think and work. Looney should be kicked to the curb with the rest of the garbage if not placed behind bars.