Principal steps aside amid community’s concerns over ex-teacher firing

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Sevier County Schools announced late Thursday the principal of Pigeon Forge Middle School, Scott Hensley, had decided to step aside as principal so the “community and educational family at the school to move forward in a productive manner without unnecessary distractions,” a press release stated. 

This comes after reports of the principal’s alleged mishandling of the situation involving an ex-teacher who was indicted by a Sevier County grand jury of sexual exploitation of a minor by electronic means.

“How can I tell them that this isn’t gonna happen again? Because I can’t,” said Jessica Hager, a parent of two children that attend Pigeon Forge Middle School.   

Hensley had been strongly reprimanded, placed on suspension without pay for a few days in late January along with Coach Adrian Watson, for “neglect of duty” regarding their roles surrounding disgraced ex- teacher Daniel Turner, who was fired last fall. 

Turner, also a fomer head coach, was accused in December of showing sexual photos of a 13-year-old student in October, when he had resigned from Pigeon Forge Middle School. He was charged in December for sexual exploitation of a child. 

     Related | Pigeon Forge teacher accused of trying to show sexual photos to teen

WATE 6 On Your Side had reached out to the Sevier County Schools system in late December for more information on the ex-teacher, Turner, and his alleged inappropriate miscommunication at that point in time.   

     Related | Teacher fired for sex misconduct was relicensed, rehired

We later obtained redacted personnel files on both Watson, the Pigeon Forge High School coach who’d recommended Turner for hire at Pigeon Forge Middle School, and Turner – where a letter from Sevier County Schools director Dr. Jack A. Parton reprimanded Watson and Hensley Jan. 31. 

“In the end, I have the utmost confidence that you both will learn from this situation, and be better educators for it…” Parton wrote in the suspension letter addressed to Hensley and Watson. “Thank you…for your honest remorse in having made the mistakes outlined in this letter.” 

Hager says she is concerned that Hensley stepping down and taking a new position within the district isn’t enough to keep behavior like Turner’s from happening again. 

“He needs to go, how could this happen? Answers to those questions, but I don’t have those answers,” said Hager. 

She says although her daughters, in 6th and 7th grades, have never experienced what Turner was indicted for, exploitation of a minor, she has since had conversations with them. 

“It’s tasking because you want them to know that they can speak up in situations like that…but then, here they are at school and its just being pushed under the rug. They feel like they can’t at school because no one is gonna listen,” said Hager.

Hensley stepped aside as principal Thursday, Feb. 14, about two weeks following his three-day suspension and reprimand. He will remain an employee with Sevier County Schools, as attendance coordinator for the remainder of the current school year. 

Hager says she, and other concerned parents, are planning a protest in front of Pigeon Forge Middle School for Thursday, February 21 at 8 a.m. She says she hopes it starts a conversation with district officials. 

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