BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Former Sullivan Central High School teacher Matthew Hawn, who was fired for insubordination last year, has appealed his case to Sullivan County Chancery Court and is asking to have his job reinstated.
A Nashville law firm submitted a complaint and petition for the court to review the case on Jan. 21. The appeal follows a Dec. 14, 2021 meeting in which the Sullivan County School Board upheld the firing of Hawn, who had taught at Sullivan Central since 2005 and become tenured in 2008. Matthew Spivey was the only one of the seven board members who voted against upholding the firing.
Hawn, who also coached baseball at Sullivan Central, was reprimanded in March 2021 after a parent complained about an article he taught related to white privilege in his contemporary issues class. He was reprimanded again later that month following his showing a spoken word poem on video called “White Privilege” that included profanity.
The school board voted 6-1 to fire Hawn in June 2021, and an impartial hearing officer upheld the decision in October.
The Jan. 21 complaint filed by Nashville attorneys Richard Colbert and C. Joseph Hubbard of Kay Griffin PLLC goes into detail about Hawn’s class and subjects discussed and taught in the spring of 2021. It also details school, central office and school board interactions with Hawn or related to the case.
The appeal claims that the impartial hearing officer, Dale Conder Jr., was improper in his finding that Hawn acted insubordinately or engaged in unprofessional conduct.
It calls the school board’s action in firing Hawn “arbitrary and capricious,” says it wasn’t supported by evidence and claims the board and Superintendent Evelyn Rafalowski’s decision was “based on political pressure and interference.”
The request for a “writ of certiorari” asks that Rafalowski and board members be required to transmit the record of all previous proceedings in Hawn’s case to the chancery court.
After a trial, the appeal asks that the court reverse the decision “and immediately reinstate the Petitioner with payment of his full salary without offset for the period of time since his suspension and subsequent dismissal” along with pre and post-judgment interest.
Hawn has contended throughout the process that he wants his job back and wants to teach again for the Sullivan County Schools system.