School Board: Karns Coach Suspended for Remarks, Touching Student

By: Whitney Daniel
By: Whitney Daniel

Knoxville (WVLT) - Karns High School teacher and head football coach,
John Fulkerson, now knows the details leading to his suspension last week.

Volunteer TV's Whitney Daniel joins us with more on this case.

The suspension centers around allegations made by a female student saying Fulkerson changed her grade, made sexual remarks and touched her inappropriately. Fulkerson denies the allegations and says the reason for them might be retaliation from the student after she failed his class.

This is the third time Fulkerson has been reprimanded in less than a year, but Monday morning, Fulkerson filed a letter to superintendent Dr. Charles Lindsey concerning all three incidents, and Fulkerson hopes that information will help clear his record.

"Mr. Fulkerson has had a long career of teaching without any blemishes on his record," Fulkerson's attorney David Burkhalter said.

But this year alone he's received three and now coach John Fulkerson and his attorney are using all three investigations in hopes of clearing Fulkerson's name.

"During the time he's been at Karns, he's been a very positive influence on the Karns community, and he's very hurt by the current allegations and he hopes to be cleared of these current allegations," Burkhalter said.

Last Wednesday, Fulkerson was suspended for what the school administration described as "inappropriate conduct." At a Monday morning meeting with county school administrators, Fulkerson first learned about the details of those allegations.

A letter that's been placed in Fulkerson's personnel file says a female student alleges Fulkerson "recently changed her test score by adding 20 points and that since then sexual remarks and physical touching have increased in frequency and intensity." Fulkerson denies the allegations.

"It turns out the student who made this complaint is a student he previously failed. It's a student he had a run-in with the week prior to this complaint where she became very angry with him because he would not allow her to do something she wanted to do," Burkhalter said.

We spoke to dozens of parents with a variety of opinions, however, most didn't didn't feel comfortable talking on camera for fear that their kids might face retaliation at school. Some said they didn't know enough about the situation to comment, but one father says no matter what the circumstance at Karns High School or who's to blame, parents should always take a child's accusations seriously.

"Sometimes our kids cry out to us and we don't listen because sometimes we take for granted their age, and we think they don't know what they're talking about or they are going through a certain stage of their adolescence," parent Isaac Simmons said.

With intentions to protect other Knox County teachers from a similar situation, Fulkerson and his attorney are requesting new policy changes about appeals for disciplinary action and suspensions.

"We filed a complaint this morning that there is no written policy for when a teacher should or should not be suspended when faced with an allegation," Burkhalter said.

Fulkerson and his attorney have also requested copies of written statements from students about the incident and plan to respond formally in writing after receiving those statements. Fulkerson remains on paid administrative leave.

Read letters submitted by both sides.


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