What we think

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By Steve Doyle

 The civil lawsuit filed last week by a former student against former Shelby County High School teacher Scott Stumbo is the latest and most repulsive chapter in what has been an extremely ugly process for our local school district.

Stumbo’s firing earlier this year after his prosecution on charges of sexual harassment of a student and distributing obscene material was distasteful enough.

He submitted an Alford Plea, which basically allowed him to be prosecuted without admitting he did anything wrong. The district appropriately fired him and hoped that was the end of it.

But the lurid details that emerged from the suit filed by the student, Elizabeth Reynolds, not only resurrected the storyline but also introduced an even more fundamental question: Why and how was he hired in the first place?

Court filings portray only one side of a story, of course, but those details bring significant and worrisome questions.

Reynolds’ suit not surprisingly targets Shelby County Public Schools, but it also names Stumbo’s prior employers in Trimble and Henry counties.

It alleges a pattern of similar charges and misconduct that led to his departures from those districts. In the details there is a picture of a problem moving from county to county.

And one of two things is clear: The background searches and interview processes in Shelby County are abysmally ineffective, or there was blatant disregard for the information and an exception was made.

The answers are not known. None of the districts or their attorneys is talking.

And because this is a personnel matter and could be part of a private, sealed settlement of the suit, we may never know the answers.

But each parent deserves to know that the district is mentoring more closely the resumes of the teachers it recruits, is checking references outside those offered by the candidate and is drawing firm, hard lines about the type of people who are hired.

The school district needs to discuss this process publicly and address the concerns of those parents.

For if that can be taken from his horrible scenario, then perhaps there has been an education for the educators.

And that’s the least we should expect.