Crime

Kentucky teacher: Harassment claim, spat with colleagues led to claims she threatened student

The Anderson News

A former middle school teacher charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly threatening a student claimed in a letter that she was systematically “bullied” by the school’s principal after she reported being sexually harassed, The Anderson News has learned.

Chrystal Graham, who is scheduled to stand trial in August on a charge of disorderly conduct stemming from her allegedly threatening to cut off a student’s penis and shove it down his throat, made her claims about the principal in a letter to the state agency that oversees teaching certificates, the Kentucky Professional Standards Board.

Graham claims she began being bullied by principal Jeanna Rose after she and students in her class were sexually harassed by a special needs student. Graham claims she reported the incident to the child’s parents, Rose and the school’s resource officer.

“After reporting this incident, I received emails from Jeanna Rose reprimanding me because I had included the resource officer in the email,” Graham wrote in the letter to the standards board.

Graham claimed Rose “continually bullied” her following the incident.

“At one point, I even had to block her from texting or calling me,” Graham wrote.

She goes on to say that Rose had been angry with her since the beginning of the year, and that because she had already resigned, the incident was “her last chance to punish me in any way.” She also claims the bullying by Rose was so bad that it drove another sixth-grade teacher into having a “nervous breakdown,” according to her letter.

School Superintendent Sheila Mitchell said in an email Tuesday morning that she had not seen Graham’s letter until it was provided by The Anderson News, and that the standards board does not provide superintendents with rebuttals as part of its investigation process.

In her letter, Graham claims she also had issues with fellow teacher Stephanie Durbin.

Those issues came to a head at the end of the 2017 school year when Graham’s and Durbin’s classes played a game of kickball, during which Graham allegedly threatened the student, flipped off teachers and students, called Durbin a “bitch” and led her team in chants of “kick Durbin’s ass,” according to written statements from students and teachers obtained by The Anderson News.

Graham claims Durbin “got mad during a team meeting and stormed out of the room” toward the end of the school year after Graham told her she was being rude to the team leader, according to her letter.

“She yelled at me, in front of the whole team, and told me to go f… myself,” Graham wrote, adding that Durbin had been “angry with her for a long time” and was “looking for any reason to get me in trouble.”

Graham also denies allegations that she started a chant of “kick Durbin’s ass” during the kickball game, saying instead that she heard some boys saying it.

She also denies giving a student what she calls the “bad finger.”

“The student told me I was going to lose and I scratched my right eye with my middle finger,” Graham wrote in her letter. “At no point did I rudely or unprofessionally do anything vulgar such as ‘flipping someone off,’” she wrote.

In the months that followed the incident, Graham was ordered to seek anger management counseling and ethics training to have her teaching certificate restored, The Anderson News has learned.

The order was part of a deal struck between Graham and the Kentucky Professional Standards Board.

The order, which was signed by Graham last February, admonishes her for “using crude language and gestures around students.” It also says that while Graham “maintains her innocence … she acknowledges that the evidence regarding the reported charges is such that, if presented at a hearing … could result in a finding she violated … the Professional Code of Ethics for Kentucky School Certified Personnel.”

The order says Graham’s teaching certificate was to be suspended until she provided proof from a psychiatrist or mental health professional that she completed an anger management evaluation and was fit to return the classroom and was not a danger to herself or others, according to the order.

Before the order was issued, Graham pleaded with the standards board not to act on allegations that surfaced following the kickball game.

“I sincerely ask that you please help me get on with my life by dismissing these ridiculous accusations,” Graham wrote in the July 12, 2017, letter to the Kentucky Professional Standards Board and obtained last week by The Anderson News

“I do not think I should have to end my teaching career with this awful reputation.”

Graham, who resigned from her job at Anderson Middle School before the 2017 incident, was hired in August of 2018 at a middle school in Taylor County, but was placed on “out of school” status once news of the charges against her surfaced earlier this year.

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