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Records Request shows JMCSS teacher suspended, later resigned, for inappropriate contact with student

Jackson-Madison County School System records show a Northeast Middle School teacher was suspended in April 2022, and later resigned in June, for having an inappropriate relationship with a student. Almost a year later, no charges have been filed by the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.

The situation was brought to the public’s attention in February 2023, when the parent of the alleged victim made a Facebook post asking for help with the investigation. 

Through a records request, The Jackson Post has obtained documents from the school system’s investigation, including the personnel file, search warrant, timeline of events, and a detailed investigation by the school system. 

The investigation by JMCSS shows over the course of several weeks, a female student used her approved behavior plan as an excuse to visit eighth-grade math teacher Philip Plyler in his classroom during the school day. 

The report says the student first started going to Plyler’s classroom in March for a “safe location,” and was often alone with him. 

“The plan called for travel logs, permission slips, documentation of negative behaviors, and journal entries to notate times when [the student] needed to leave her normal setting. Unfortunately, these guidelines were not followed or monitored according to the behavior plan,” the report states.

“Since these monitoring requirements were not notated, [the student] basically had a blank pass to report to [Plyler’s] classroom any time she wished with no documentation,” the report continued. 

The report also says Plyler and the student exchanged cell phone numbers and communicated outside of school. The parents of the student provided that call log to The Jackson Post, which included 45 phone calls, totalling 11 hours between Plyler and the student. Some of the calls were past 11 p.m.

“It was also noted that [Plyler] took possession of, and arranged, to have a favorite necklace of [the student’s] repaired because it was broken. Plus, he attended a non-school soccer game on a Saturday to see her and told her that he had given up a hunting trip just to see her,” the report says. 

This entire situation culminated April 14, 2022, when the student was in Plyler’s classroom. From the report, it is unclear what exactly transpired. However, the student left Plyler’s classroom crying, and told a friend Plyler tried to kiss her. That friend then told a teacher a version of the story, which included a reference to Plyler calling a boy the “flavor of the week,” according to the report.

By then, according to the report, rumors circulated the school about both the attempted kiss and “flavor of the week” comments. 

“According to the students and the staff we interviewed, most had heard some variation of the story, but no one was able to offer definitive proof on what actually took place in that classroom on April 14th,” the report said. 

Initial interviews with both the student and Plyler by Northeast Middle School administration indicate the whole situation revolved around the “flavor of the week” statement.

Later interviews refute this claim, however. When JMCSS investigated, the student said, “I’m not going to lie anymore, he asked if he could kiss me.”

In an interview with JMCSS administration, Plyler later admitted that he asked the student for a kiss: 

“His statements matched [the student’s]. According to both, he said, ‘What would you do if I did something stupid?’

“She then reacted by saying, ‘like – she makes a groaning noise like grunting’ (according to both versions, the grunting referenced sexual intercourse). 

“He said, ‘No, like – and touched his lips with his fingers.’”

Plyler was suspended from the JMCSS on April 27. He resigned June 6. 

The school system’s investigation outlines a “lack of communication” and failure “to notice specific ‘red flags’” that may have prevented this incident. 

It even says two teachers at the middle school noticed the amount of time the student was spending in the classroom, calling it “unusual” and “concerning.” 

“They also both stated they believed [the student] had a crush on [Plyler] and told him to be ‘careful,’” the report said about the other teachers’ accounts. 

“The breakdown in awareness and its subsequent lack of communication must be addressed with whole school training. This training should include appropriate staff and student relationships and how to notice and report breaches. Followed by new policies and procedures for monitoring and assessing students with behavior plans and or behavior issues in general,” the report says.

The school system says they reported the incident to the Department of Children’s Services, but after an interview, they declined to open an investigation. 

The school system also filed a motion to suspend Plyler’s license with the State Board of Education.

The parents of the student filed a report with the Madison Co. Sheriff’s Office. 

May 19, 2022, the Madison Co. Sheriff’s Office issued a search warrant for the personnel file for Plyler, including in the warrant, “any attendance, disciplinary records, etc. These records are needed to assist in this Suspicious Situations investigation.”

The Madison Co. Sheriff’s Office has confirmed they are investigating the situation, and it has been turned into the District Attorney’s office. However, charges have not been filed. 

According to his resume, before teaching at Northeast Middle School, Plyler taught at Milan Middle School, Humboldt Middle School, and Medina Middle School. He also was the Youth Director at Main Street Church of Christ in Milan and a Minister at Atwood Church of Christ.

According to the records request, Plyler also passed a state background check when he originally applied to the job. 

Julia Ewoldt, julia@jacksonpost.news

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