White's Record as Teacher Raised as Election Issue

Update, Monday, May 21: This morning a spokesman for Livingston ISD, where White was employed as a teacher, said that the school district did not ask White to resign at the end of the year. 

If that was true, he said, there "there would be a letter in his file saying that we had asked him to leave."

Gov. Rick Perry, who has endorsed White in the primary, is scheduled to campaign with him on Thursday afternoon in Lumberton.

Another piece of context for this story: starting in 2003, three years before White arrived there, Livingston was wracked by a series of sex scandals between teachers and students. Here's the Fort Worth Star Telegram's write-up on the events.

Original story:

State Rep. James White left his job as a teacher in the Livingston Independent School District after repeated complaints of inappropriate sexual discussions in class, according to documents made public late Friday by his political opponent, Rep. Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton, R-Lumberton.

In a statement relased shortly after, White called the allegation "malicious, untrue gossip," saying that he left in order to take another teaching job closer to home.

White, R-Hillister, and Hamilton are engaged in a tough primary campaign. Hamilton asked the Livingston and Woodville school districts — both former employers of White — for the documents under the state's open records laws and released the results of that request to the media.

Hamilton's campaign summarized the documents from the school districts in its news release:

According to the documents released by Livingston ISD, White was repeatedly the subject of complaints from parents and students for inappropriate sexual discussions in class. The behavior resulted in repeated investigations, reprimands and public apologies. For his behavior in his history class, James White was barred from campus while the full investigation was conducted. White was directed to stop this behavior or risk more serious remedies. The issue culminated with White’s resignation in July of that same year, 2007.

White said Hamilton had engaged in a "smear campaign" and questioned why he had "stooped so low in order to win."

"The compliant that led to an investigation involved my teaching high school seniors in a government class about. important Supreme Court cases that included the Texas sodomy case. I stand by my actions," he said. (Read the full statement below.)

Then a teacher in Livingston ISD, White signed a memo titled "Disciplinary Action/Final Written Warning" in February 2007. It described the results of an investigation into student complaints about his behavior. "Students alleged you used profanity in the classroom. ... Also, students were made uncomfortable because of your choice of example for judicial review, which was a case involving sodomy."

White's statement didn't directly address another August 2006 memo from his principal at Livingston, in which he was admonished  "to avoid use of sexual references in making your teaching points in the classroom."  

"No other issues raised by Tuffy Hamilton’s smear campaign, which involve comments taken out of context, resulted in any action taken against me," White said. 

In that memo, he was told to stop using sexual references and to apologize to his classes:

One of the comments that was discussed during the conference was a statement that you made by asking the students "what is more intimate… sharing your credit scores or having sexual intercourse?" It was discussed by the principal that this type of comment was indeed inappropriate. Other comments such as "girls are used as a utility for guys…" were also deemed inappropriate. Further discussion took place in regard to student/parent complaints about comments such as "after a man and a woman have sex..then their undergarments are mixed together in the same washing machine." Additionally during our discussion, you mentioned that you had tried to make some sort of economic point by using the comparision of bodily fluids being swapped during sexual relations. As we all agreed during the conference, it is highly imperative that you refrain from continuing to make these types of references in the presence of students.

Here is the statement from White in full: 

Like so many other claims by Mike “Tuffy Hamilton, today’s attack is a desperate lie. I was offered a contract to continue teaching in Livingston ISD following the 2006-2007 school year, and accepted, resigning only after I was offered a teaching position in Woodville ISD, which was much closer to my residence.

The very same school district that reviewed the complaint filed against me not only sought to retain me for the next school year, but provided stellar evaluations of my teaching performance – evaluations that were intentionally withheld by the Hamilton Campaign.

The compliant that led to an investigation involved my teaching high school seniors in a government class about important Supreme Court cases that included the Texas sodomy case. I stand by my actions.

No other issues raised by Tuffy Hamilton’s smear campaign, which involve comments taken out of context, resulted in any action taken against me. The so-called profanity cited involved using the words “hell” and “damn”, which are common vernacular in church on Sunday, even if considered profane by some.

The real issue is not whether teachers are subjected to complaints, which happen all the time, but why Mr. Hamilton has stooped so low in order to win a campaign, especially when he has yet to provide an explanation for being slapped with two tax liens, spending campaign money at Hooters, being fined $3,700 for multiple ethics violations and double-billing his campaign and taxpayers for travel expenses.

I’m not surprised Tuffy would attempt to deceive voters about my decision to work for a school district closer to my home, I am just surprised a candidate carrying a Bible in his television spot would spread such malicious, untrue gossip.

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