Several protest outside Pigeon Forge Middle School

Published: Feb. 13, 2019 at 7:28 PM EST
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Parents of children who attend Pigeon Forge Middle School are lashing out over the school board's handling of a sexual harassment case, and a crowd gathered outside Pigeon Forge Middle School Thursday morning to protest their concerns the students at the school are not safe.

"When I send my children to school, I want to believe the people here running the system have been vetted," Jessica Hager, a parent of two girls at PFMS, said. "I feel like out voice needs to be heard and so many people just let things go by the wayside."

Many gathered to express concerns the Sevier County School Board was not taking their concerns seriously.

One high school student protesting told WVLT she worries for her younger sister, who is a student at the middle school. Those protesting expressed their belief that if it can happen to one student, it can happen to any student.

In a statement, Sevier County Schools said they will have no further comment on the incident for the time being.

A release from the Sevier County School System said the principal of Pigeon Forge Middle School has stepped down and been reassigned to a new position after allegations surrounding the sexual harassment of a student.

According to the school system, Scott Hensley has decided to step down as the principal. "Mr. Hensley feels that this decision will allow the community and educational family at the school to move forward in a productive manner without unnecessary distractions," the release said.

Hensley was at the center of a controversy after he returned to work following a suspension for allegedly waiting to report an incident of sexual harassment of a student. A report from the Pigeon Forge Police Department said he waited around five hours to report Daniel Allen Turner, a former physical education teacher.

WVLT News reached out to Sevier County to find out if county officials would be taking any action in the case. According to Perrin Anderson, Sevier County Spokesperson, the county mayor's office and the county mayor is not involved with any hiring and firing within the school system.

An indictment claims Turner is accused of attempting to display photos containing sexual activity to a minor in October 2018. Turner will face one count of Attempted Sexual Exploitation of a Minor in front of a grand jury in March.

Investigators said Scott Hensley allowed Turner to resign and leave school property before contacting police, however, school security was involved before authorities arrived.

On Thursday evening, Hensley announced he would step aside saying, "The students, faculty, and staff of Pigeon Forge Middle School are a great group of people. It is important that each school day be focused on teaching and learning and I hope that my departure will eliminate the distractions that have clouded the last few days. Pigeon Forge is a great school and community and I wish everyone there the best. It has been a pleasure to serve Pigeon Forge as principal."

The school system says Hensley will take on a new position--attendance coordinator. The release says Henlsey will be the coordinator for the remainder of the year and will report to work in the CTE Center at Sevier County High School. According to the release, the district planned on adding the position to next year's budget "so Hensley's placement will simply provide an early start to the expansion of that work."

Effective Feb. 15, Mitchell Whaley will serve as interim principal of Pigeon Forge Middle School for the remainder of the year. Whaley once served as a part-time assistant principal at the school.

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