By Emily Younker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
An East Middle School teacher who was removed from his classroom last month following an investigation by district officials will go before the Board of Education this week.
Randy Turner, an eighth-grade communication arts teacher, will have the opportunity to address the board during an open hearing on Thursday after having been placed on paid administrative leave on April 8.
Turner was placed on leave — a standard procedure — after the school district received a complaint about him from a district employee on April 4, according to Superintendent C.J. Huff. After an investigation into the complaint by the administration, a 28-page “statement of charges” was given to Turner on April 15, with a set of additional charges delivered to him earlier this month, Huff said.
Turner has declined several requests to comment on the record to the Globe on either the charges or the hearing itself.
“I don’t have any plans to (comment) at the moment,” he said again this week in advance of the hearing.
Huff also has not specified the nature of the complaint or released details of the charges, saying it is a personnel matter. He has said the investigation included a review of evidence related to the complaint as well as interviews with people who might have relevant information.
While not making any details of the complaint public, the notice of the hearing states that children younger than 18 will not be permitted into the hearing unless accompanied by a parent or guardian because of “graphic content” expected to be discussed.
During the hearing, Turner will be able to “state his case” to the board, which will review the evidence and ultimately decide whether to continue his teaching contract, according to Huff.
Rylee Hartwell, a Joplin High School student, said he and another former student of Turner’s have organized a rally for the teacher alongside Duquesne Road near the administration building on the morning of the hearing. He said their objective is to get Turner returned to his classroom. He said Turner taught a “very writing intensive” class at East Middle School and also supported the creation of a student newspaper at the middle school.
“My impressions of Mr. Turner are simple, and they’re that he’s a good man,” said Hartwell, now the assistant editor of the high school newspaper. “He got me to a place where I know that there’s great power within my words.”
Turner’s dismissal sparked the creation last month of a Facebook page called “Project Turner,” which has gathered more than 600 “likes” from students and others seeking to bring their teacher back to the classroom. An online petition on change.org asking that Turner retain his position has collected more than 300 signatures.
A campaign launched by Turner on the online fundraising platform Kickstarter that sought $40,000 in pledges for a two-book project had raised $171 when it closed earlier this month. In proposing the project, Turner described a self-published novel published in July 2012, “No Child Left Alive,” as having struck a blow “for the cause.”
That novel, published as an e-book, contains numerous passages of a graphic, sexual nature. It is a fictional account about a school administration obsessed with preparing students for state testing at a cost of not allowing teachers to actually do their jobs.
Randy Turner’s hearing will be at 9 a.m. Thursday at the administration building, 3901 E. 32nd St. It will be conducted in an open session before the Board of Education, which also has scheduled a closed session for legal and personnel issues and identifiable student and personnel records.