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Teachers Rally After BES Vice Principal Sued

A federal lawsuit has been filed by former Clerk of Court Willie D. Wise against the Calhoun County school district and Debbie Williams Teachers from across the county are rallying behind Blountstown Elementary School’s Assistant Principal, Debbie Williams, who was named in a federal lawsuit filed last week by former Clerk of Court Willie D. Wise. Educators, children, and other community members gathered at Magnolia Square Friday afternoon, holding up signs and chanting cheers of support for Williams who is accused of violently spanking Wise’s grandchild – identified as “OW” in court documents – back in October 2008 after the child became upset when Williams took a book from her. Wise alleges the spanking left a bruise on the child’s buttock. He further alleges the child was placed in a “vault” and described the room in court documents as “an approximately eight foot by ten foot dark, closed-in room with no windows and a metal door that contains a combination lock.” Wise is suing both Williams and the Calhoun County School District for an undisclosed amount. Over at BES, Williams could not speak about the case, but teachers and school officials were quick to dispute Wise’s claims, particularly the description of the “vault” located in the school’s front office that has been a records room for years. “This is Grand Central Station,” BES Principal Pam Bozeman remarks as she stands in the entrance of the old vault that was mentioned in the lawsuit. She says the space, lined with file cabinets, student desks, office supplies, and a teacher work station, is often used for parent-teacher conferences, a place where a sick child can take a nap, and, yes, a time out area for unruly students. “If a child cusses today, they will end up right here,” says Bozeman, pointing to a student work station in the records room. “It’s not right to expose a classroom of 20 students to that behavior.” Bozeman notes the door to the room, located across from her office, stays open all the time and the lock doesn’t even work. “I’ve been here for 22 years and it’s never worked the entire time,” she comments. Superintendent Tommy McClellan had only good things to say about Williams. “Debbie is a single mom, she works hard, she goes to church every Sunday and I’ve never had a complaint about her,” McClellan remarks, adding his office has yet to officially been served papers on the lawsuit. “This was handled back in 2008 when Mary Sue Neves was here and she did everything right as far as I know. I don’t know how I would have done it any different.” McClellan says the Department of Children and Families was notified, they investigated, and the case was closed. At a support rally on the square Friday afternoon, teachers were speaking up for Williams. “We’re here because we support her 100 percent,” said Tracy Wood. “She’s hard working, conscientious, kind, and she does not deserve this.” Sky Scott added, “We’re here to tell the other side of the story.” “She loves the students at BES,” Kathy Kimbrel remarked. Friday was Williams’ birthday and she was surprised when students, teachers, and staff members – the entire school – lined the hallway to sing happy birthday. Another support rally put on by community members is planned Thursday night from 4 to 6 p.m. at Magnolia Square.

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