The Brantley County Board of Education upheld the termination of baseball coach Keith Mobley late Thursday night after a nearly 12 hour hearing into allegations that he inappropriately touched a female student and had not observed proper teacher-student boundaries with others.
Mobley spent much of Thursday afternoon defending himself against allegations that he touched the student — allegations which led to his dismissal from his job at the school as both coach and teacher.
The hearing began at 9 a.m. Thursday and continued through 8:30 p.m. with testimony from witnesses who said the coach did inappropriately touch a student and others who said he did not.
Several other character witnesses said it would not be in Mobley’s character to do so, but it was the school board’s decision that had he followed earlier rules set in place after a previous incident a year before, there would have been no question.
As it turns out, a report was also lodged against Mobley in October of 2011 for similar complaints. The complaint led to a “letter of concern” from the previous principal that required that Mobley not allow any students – particularly female – into his room alone and to generally be aware of the possible perception of any relationship by other students.
In the year that followed that letter, students were observed in at least two situations not following this rule – one where a female student was alone with Mobley in his classroom and the latter of which ultimately led to the decision to fire him.
In her testimony, the high school student who was with him in the equipment room in April of this year said that Mobley had inappropriately placed his hand into her shorts while checking a leg injury she had received in a vehicle accident.
The girl had long been coming to Mobley to check the injury but that day she said his motive changed. She also said that Mobley had told her she could undress in the dugout at one point and had poked her in the buttocks with an umbrella at another.
Later, while back in class, the girl said that Mobley had pushed money into the side of her shorts while she was sitting in a chair in his class.
But Mobley denied the allegation and said that he had checked her knee that day just as he had many times before at her request. The girl had moved from weight training to his classroom for several months per a note giving her permission from coach Clint Cannon after her injury and Mobley’s defense said that he had been checking the injury often to know when she was ready to go back to the other class.
Mobley said that the money in question was being given to her for working at the field refilling the concession stands and doing other odd jobs at her request. As for where he placed the money, Mobley said he never slid it up the girl’s shorts, but said that he placed it on her leg when she refused to take the money.
Mobley said he often paid students for working in the stands and this was no different. And despite her alleged concerns, Mobley’s defense pointed out that she continued to come to his class for some time until her friend went to another teacher to report the issue.
As for the first time he was alone with a student after receiving the directive, Mobley said that occurred when the bell rang and all other students in the room left except for one other girl who wanted him to talk to him about an ankle injury – a common request for him as a coach and the main person who taped up football players at local games.
At that moment assistant principal Caroll Ann Gill walked by and observed the girl in the room and reported to Coach Nehemiah Cummings to check if she was a student.
Gill said in her testimony that she had been on alert after a previous administrative investigation where 15 of 20 people she interviewed file negative statements regarding Mobley. Some of the group said that they had at least seen Mobley involved in some flirtatious actions with students – all female. Gill said she stressed that they tell her what they knew and not what others may have said in class before getting each to file statements.
Despite these statements the item never went further than the letter of concern under previous principal Randy Yonz and former superintendent Drew Sauls and Mobley was not aware that the letter was even still on file after alledgedly being assured that the item would disappear after that year by previous administration.
But Mobley’s defense council said that an overarching theme to all the claims current and former were that they were unsubstantiated and that Mobley had abided by the rules set forth in the letter from Yonz – though admitting that they were extremely vague.
Mobley’s representation also pointed out that the school system only brought three witnesses out of all those that allegedly had witnessed actions by Mobley to take the stand lessening the credibility of the decision by the superintendent. He also pointed out that Mobley voluntarily submitted himself to a Georgia Bureau of Investigations investigation which, he said, a guilty man would not do.
Meanwhile other students, members of the community and faculty at the high school – some knowing Mobley for almost all of his life – said that the actions described simply did not match the person they knew and many said that they still trusted Mobley with their children regardless of the allegations.
But at least a handful of the administration including superintendent Anthony Smith, Principal Bert Smith and Assistant Principal Carol Ann Gill each stood behind the initial decision to fire Mobley.
Ultimately, the board of education did the same with a unanimous decision at about 9 p.m. spending only about 30 minutes in executive session compared to several hours after a previous personnel hearing.