Board Suspends Litchfield Principal
Wed, 24 Oct 2018 08:42:00 CDT
Following a hearing that spanned two days and lasted more than seven hours, the Litchfield School Board reached a decision on the discipline of high school Principal Doug Hoster during a special meeting Monday evening.
At 1:20 a.m. Tuesday, school board President Jennifer Reid announced the board determined that Hoster "engaged in conduct that violates board policy which prohibits sexual harrassment of students, including verbal conduct of a sexual nature." He has been suspended for thirty working days through October 30. The punishment is retroactive to September 18. In addition to the suspension, the principal will be required to complete sexual harassment training by January 1, as well as issue a written apology to the students impacted by his alleged comments.
Prior to continuing the hearing in closed session Monday, five people spoke to the board during the public comment portion of the meeting. Some spoke in support of Hoster.
"I have had professional encounters with Mr. Hoster in the past regarding my student, and I have to say that I believe he was as fair as he could be in the given scenario," said Stacy Lamb, a parent of multiple students in the district. "As a parent, I wanted a different approach to holding my child accountable than he ultimately used, but as a citizen of this city, he proved his professionalism to me as an administrator."
Others who spoke utilized their time by criticizing the board and Superintendent Debbie Poffinbarger for how the situation has been handled.
"I don't know exactly what's going on with Litchfield, but it's disheartening when I'm asked in Charleston by teachers with Master's Degrees at a high school in Decatur and teachers in Springfield about what's going on with our district," said Laura Bender, who is the parent of two Litchfield High School graduates.
No students spoke on Monday, but some in the crowd were still commenting on the speech given by high school student Alexis Gibson. She spoke during the public input portion of Thursday's regular board meeting, claiming that Poffinbarger broke rules in the way she handled the matter.
"Mrs. Poffinbarger sent a half dozen students to her office where they would talk to a lawyer. She never disclosed that this lady was a lawyer, only her name. Mrs. Poffinbarger never discussed talking to a lawyer with the students' parents. They are all minors, and that is required. Not only were they asked to give statements, she showed them to a person who gave a report against Mr. Hoster. These students trusted their superintendent to keep their confidential statements private."
Hoster will be eligible to return to work on October 31. After the hearing concluded, he returned to Panther Gymnasium at Litchfield Middle School and received applause from the people who were still remaining. He was visibly emotional, and he thanked each person for their support during the ordeal. He said no matter the outcome, he considers Litchfield home.
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