Two groups of people sat in separate offices Thursday, one waiting to testify about obscene videos shown in the classroom by teacher Steve White, the other to witness to his character.

For the most part, they ignored one another, although at one point a person from White’s camp angrily confronted a parent whose child was testifying about a video shown in the class.

The wait for both camps began at 9 a.m. inside the offices of Limestone County Schools on Jefferson Street.

Witnesses weren’t called until after a lunch break in the arbitration hearing of White, whom school board members voted 6-1 to dismiss from his position at West Limestone High School in May.

White and his attorney Bill Dawson of Birmingham and Superintendent Dr. Barry Carroll presented their sides to arbitrator Joe Battle, who ordered the hearing closed to the public.

In a statement addressed to attorneys and given to the media, Battle said: “I have decided to close the hearing entirely unless the parties both agree to have an open hearing or an open hearing as to all but the witnesses who were eighth graders.”

Battle said he wanted to be consistent with rules adhered to by Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service arbitrators. He added, “Closing the hearing is consistent with the standard operating procedure of boards of education that go into ‘executive session’ to discuss the good name and character of an employee.”

Battle said before the hearing that he did not know when he would make a ruling on the evidence.

He told a group of reporters that White or the school system can file an appeal to the Civil Court of Appeals if they do not agree with the ruling.

White has been paid his regular salary since his dismissal May 16, as mandated by state tenure laws. He will continue to receive pay until he agrees to the dismissal or his appeals are exhausted.

White, who is also a Democratic candidate for the District 4 seat of the state House of Representatives, has not commented publicly on the charges or the outcome of the investigation. A spokesman for the state Democratic Party said the group plans to force White off the ballot before September, the deadline for replacing him on the ballot.

Carroll and West Limestone Principal Stan Davis removed and searched White’s computer April 7 after parents said their children saw video clips in White’s class featuring a woman with her bikini top pulled down, an animated Bill Clinton in a sex act, a video clip called “Topless Car Wash,” and other vulgar materials.

In his findings following the investigation, Carroll called the materials “pornographic.”

The complaints of obscenities surfaced after parent Christy Jackson told local news media White should be punished for showing her son and other students a video filmstrip calling President Bush an “a-hole” numerous times and bashing the administration.

Carroll announced later that week that White had been punished for showing the Bush-bashing video with a letter of reprimand from Davis placed in the teacher’s file.

The new complaints and subsequent investigation led to his dismissal.

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