JONESBORO, Ark. – An attorney for the Westside Consolidated School District has responded to the news story regarding David Yates, 44, of Jonesboro.
Yates, who was an 8th grade math teacher at Westside, was also pastor of Valley View Missionary Baptist Church. Despite being in both of these authoritative roles over children, the 44-year-old romanticized a 14-year-old who was so mentally distraught during this time, she talked to him about killing herself.
He never notified anyone. Instead, he continued pursuing her.
Social media messages were discovered by the parents of the underage girl. Messages indicated the two were in a “romantic relationship.” Parents took the messages to Jonesboro Police Department and then to Westside schools.
On Wednesday, Yates pled guilty to the misdemeanor charge against him – second degree endangering the welfare of a minor. He was sentenced to two days in jail with 178 days suspended.
The six-month long predatory relationship only came to media’s attention Thursday. Yates was released from jail Friday morning at 9:33 a.m., records from Craighead County Detention Center show.
On Friday, Attorney Rebecca Worsham with Mixon & Worsham PLC contacted NEA Report on behalf of Westside. She forwarded the following letter along through email:
My law firm represents the Westside Consolidated School District. I was reading the comments on your story regarding David Yates and felt the need to explain why the district cannot disclose personnel matters to the public.
Under the Arkansas Teacher Fair Dismissal Act, a teacher is entitled to a fair and impartial hearing before the school board whenever the teacher’s contract is recommended for termination or non-renewal by the superintendent. School board members are not supposed to know the facts surrounding personnel matters until they are brought before the board for a hearing. Therefore, a school district cannot notify the public about a personnel matter because it may taint the hearing process.
A district may only confirm to the media that a teacher has been placed on administrative leave and has been recommended for termination. A district cannot even release the reasons for termination until after the board has voted on the truth of each reason in public session at the conclusion of the teacher’s hearing.
Teachers have rights even when their conduct is horrid. One of those rights is that a teacher has thirty days from the day he receives a notice letter from the superintendent recommending termination of his contract. A teacher is usually placed on administrative leave with pay during this period. Therefore, a teacher can use this 30 day period to his advantage by continuing to receive pay from the district and wait until the end of the 30 day period to either resign or request a hearing. This is why it can take well over a month before the public hears anything.
By law, the district is required to notify the child maltreatment hotline and the professional licensure board with the Arkansas Department of Education. Westside did both in this matter.
The student’s parent contacted a district administrator on May 7th concerning the communications between the teacher and student. The following day, the district put Mr. Yates on administrative leave to conduct an investigation, and the child maltreatment hotline was notified of the incident. The child maltreatment hotline accepted the matter and referred it to law enforcement, which resulted in Mr. Yates being charged with a criminal offense. Mr. Gauntt, the district’s superintendent, gave Mr. Yates a letter recommending his termination on May 9th. Mr. Yates resigned from his position sometime in the month of June. (Mr. Gauntt is out of town, and I’m unable to verify the exact date). The school board accepted Mr. Yates’ resignation at its last board meeting.
The professional licensure board will conduct its investigation into the matter and decide whether to suspend or revoke Mr. Yates’ teaching license. Mr. Yates will be entitled to hearing before the licensure board as well. I believe it is highly likely that his teaching license will be revoked.
Westside Consolidated School District handled this matter correctly and in accordance with the laws of the State of Arkansas.