Opinions divided on principal accused of DWI keeping her job

Opinions divided on principal accused of DWI keeping her job

HICKORY, N.C. — Hickory High School principal Rebecca Tuttle was charged in January with DWI after an arrest on Second Street Southeast.

Tuttle got into a wreck, the school district said. There were no passengers in her car.

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Channel 9 learned Tuttle crashed into the back of a parked minivan on Second Street SE. She then started to back up and hit a pedestrian, police said.

The report said Tuttle’s car then ran off the road and backed down a hill and over Eighth Avenue Drive SE before colliding with a building.

The police report states Tuttle’s blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit.

Two weeks after the crash, Hickory Public Schools released a statement saying, “Barring unforeseen circumstances, it is our intent to reinstate Ms. Tuttle to administrative leadership at a date yet to be determined.”

That led Carmen Eckard to start a petition saying she should not keep her job.

“We are all angry and shocked, truly very surprised that we would even have to say, ‘This is crazy,’ but it feels crazy,” Eckard said.

Eckard recently sent the petition to the state Board of Education.

Shortly after the wreck court documents showed Tuttle’s blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit at the time of the wreck.

But several parents we spoke with today believe she should possibly be given a second chance.

“It teaches us forgiveness,” parent Patrice Sawyer said. “It teaches all of us forgiveness. I wouldn’t hold it against her, and I wouldn’t say strip her or her job.”

“I do believe we are quick to judge, and it leads to someone’s life being ruined,” parent Thomas Fields said.

The school district said Thursday that Tuttle is using sick time while she is on leave.

It will be up to the superintendent and the School Board to decide her future role.

Some parents don’t believe it should be as principal.

“She would have no leadership. She would have nothing to back up what she says. The kids are not going to respect her,” resident Vickie Ennis said.

The school district said it will listen to parents and others at its next school board meeting, set for Feb 24.

According to police, Tuttle told officers she hit the building after hydroplaning.

Homeowner Anita Sherrill said in January she woke to the crash outside her home and watched as police gave Tuttle a field sobriety test.

“To be a principal out at night that late drinking and driving that’s just sad. It’s sad for the community,” Sherrill said after the arrest. It’s sad for parents who are trying to teach their children the right way and it’s really really sad for the school system.”

The school district said in January Tuttle was suspended.

“When you’re a school official you have to set a good example for the children because they do what they see,” mother Jessica Page said.

Some parents said after the crash happened that the principal should be fired, but others believe she should get another chance.

Cindy Shelor said Tuttle helped her son who has special needs transition into the high school.

“I know she does the phone calls every night for us and they’re so positive and how she talks about her students and I know she used to be a special ed teacher and she has a lot of compassion for all of the kids,” Shelor said.

The school district sent out an email in January explaining to parents its plans on moving forward after suspending Tuttle, but there is no timeline on how long her suspension will last or whether it’s paid or unpaid.

Hickory Schools Statement: “We are aware that an administrative employee was involved in an automobile accident this past Friday night, Jan. 3, 2020, after which criminal charges were filed. (No other passengers were in the automobile at the time of the accident).

“Upon receiving information regarding this concern, HPS acted in accordance with district policy. This matter will not affect the students’ school day or the school’s standard operation. As a small school district, we are asking that everyone continue to work together”

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