An arbitrator on Monday upheld the decision of the Limestone County Board of Education to dismiss West Limestone High School teacher Steve White, who students testified showed them video clips containing animated sex acts, some including bondage.

In his 36-page decision, Joe Battle wrote that while he does not believe White’s behavior to be “immoral,” it did constitute insubordination “by a willful failure to comply with the board’s Acceptable Use Policy as to computers.”

Battle had 30 days to publish a decision following a July 27 hearing stemming from White’s appeal of his dismissal.

Superintendent Dr. Barry Carroll, who investigated parent complaints against White and recommended his termination to board members on May 16, said he feels Battle made the “correct decision.”

“This has been a very difficult situation for everyone involved,” Carroll said via e-mail. “I am glad it is over, so we can put this situation behind us and move forward with the business of educating our students.”

White was not at home when contacted Monday.

Battle quoted the Alabama Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act in the Code of Alabama: “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly or recklessly distribute to a minor…any material which is harmful to minors.”

He wrote: “This case is about material that is harmful to minors being displayed on a teacher’s classroom computer. Contemporary community standards for the State of Alabama do not permit such display. A reasonable person in Alabama would find that the foregoing material; taken as a whole, (1) appeals to the prurient interest of minors, (2) depicts sexual conduct or nudity in a way that is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable for minors…”

Battle wrote while testimony of students conflicted, that White’s repeated admonition to students not to tell their parents about the video clips because he could get into trouble showed his knowledge of the clips and their content.

Battle wrote: “From the testimony, it is unclear that the teacher actively showed offensive video clips or computer images. Instead, it appears that the teacher exchanged e-mails with other teachers and allowed an aide access to his computer that resulted in pornographic material being downloaded onto the school computer.”

He wrote White showed poor judgement.

Battle’s lengthy report of his findings includes a synopsis of student testimony at the July 27 hearing. He ordered the hearing that night be closed to the public and the media because some of those testifying were eighth grade students.

Those who testified on behalf of the school board, Battle wrote, included: five of White’s eighth grade science students, a parent, West Limestone Principal Stan Davis, and Carroll. Testifying for White were five of his students, a student from the prior year, a teacher’s aide, a political ally, a friend, a computer expert, Alabama Education Association representative Emmitt Jimmar and White.

Battle wrote that he did not find a political conspiracy to be at the root of the charges against White, as some testified. White, a Democratic candidate for the District 4 seat of the state House of Representatives, ran unsuccessfully for the District 5 seat in 1994 and 1998 and favored having the superintendent elected by a vote of the people. Carroll is appointed by the school board.

Six of seven board members voted to fire White, and Battle noted that the majority were Democrats. He wrote: “I find no political or personal reason for the board’s decision to cancel the contract of the teacher. His involvement with trying to keep longevity pay for teachers predated the current superintendent. His efforts to have an elected rather than appointed superintendent are apparently a part of his current campaign as a Democratic candidate for the State House of Representatives. However, a majority of the school board that cancelled his contract are Democrats.”

Carroll and West Limestone Principal Stan Davis began an investigation in April after parents complained White was showing students Internet clips that had been e-mailed to him, including one showing an animated Bill Clinton engaged in a sex act, a partially clad woman in a bikini and clips from the Fruitcake Lady, an elderly woman who dispenses sex advice using curse words, including the “f-word,” according to testimony included in Battle’s decision.

“The Bill and Hillary video clip was seen on the teacher’s classroom computer by at least three students in the teacher’s third period class and by at least one student in the sixth period class,” the decision said. “A student in the teacher’s first period class walked by while other students were watching a video clip of a cartoon version of a woman on a beach in a sheer bathing suit with all of her body parts visible. In the teacher’s fourth period class, a student saw a sexual bondage video clip with leather straps and chains and a cartoon character in a bikini making reference to sexual contact.”

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, using the s-word and bashing the administration. White received a letter of reprimand for showing that video, which, according to Battle, included this wording from Carroll: “…you may criticize public figures…without fear of reprimand [but]…a filmstrip which uses profanity to make the point…is not appropriate for a middle school classroom…. If the conduct occurs again, you run the risk of more serious disciplinary measures.”

Battle noted that a ninth grade student who acted as an aide in White’s class appeared by subpoena and admitted to looking at pornography on White’s computer without White’s knowledge. Battle said he did not take those images into consideration in his decision but that allowing the aide and other students access to the computer showed negligence and violated the board’s Acceptable Use Policy for computers, which White had signed.

Battle found in his decision that he felt White was an “adequate” teacher but wrote that according to students who testified for the board, White “only lectured when he was being observed. Most of the time, he sat at the back of the classroom by the computer. The students learned by reading their science book and completing worksheets.”

Students testifying on White’s behalf said he “taught like any other teacher,” was “a good teacher,” or a “better than average teacher” who “deserves to keep his job,” Battle wrote.

Testimony varied as to how often White showed the clips and who saw them, with some students saying only four or five were shown altogether, and other saying they saw them two or three times a week. Students also testified they were “invited to stand behind the teacher at the computer” to see clips. “Sometimes, the teacher would turn the computer screen toward the class.”

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