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Hanover-Horton teacher resigns, district to pay $20k as part of settlement

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Posted at 7:29 AM, Sep 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-25 20:23:21-04

LANSING, Mich. — The Hanover-Horton School District Board of Education has agreed to pay a teacher accused of sexual misconduct a lump sum of $20,000 as part of a settlement.

Hanover-Horton School District Releases Investigation Report,In a letter sent to parents on Tuesday, Sept. 24., Superintendent John Denney and President of the Hanover-Horton School District Board of Education Gary Schuette announced a settlement had been reached with Johnnie Stewart.

"Mr. Stewart has resigned from the Hanover-Horton School District and will not return in any capacity," the letter stated.

Stewart, a teacher and head football coach, had been placed been on paid, non-disciplinary administrative leave for the past two months.

On June 19, a former Hanover-Horton student, Angela Sturgill, went public with her claims that Stewart had started a sexual relationship with her when she was a student in the late 1990s.

At a special meeting on Aug. 26, the Hanover-Horton Board of Education unanimously voted to begin the process of firing Stewart by bringing tenure charges against him.

Stewart filed an appeal of the tenure charges.

On Aug. 30, the district released the results of an independent investigation into Stewart.

Stewart signed the settlement agreement on Monday, Sept. 16, according to the letter.

The settlement was not made official until a federally required revocation period had passed.

"For this person to walk away lining his pockets with the money that would otherwise be either in the insurance or the actual pockets of the school district just really is really sickening," said Sarah Prescott, Sturgill's attorney. "Our goal is to improve accountability and to better understand how the police and schools failed to talk to one another and deal with one another of somebody who was accused of very serious mistreatment of young girls."

In a statement, Sturgill told Fox 47 Wednesday that she was disgusted Stewart never stood up and took accountability for his actions.

In a statement of his own, Stewart said that he was reluctant to accept the agreement because he wants to desperately clear his name from false and ugly accusations, but said that this resolution was the best option to spare his family and community through the trauma of continued litigation.

Denney and Schuette defended the settlement payment to Stewart in the letter.

"During the appeal process, the employee continues to receive full compensation including benefits. We (Hanover-Horton School District) estimated that at a minimum, he would've have been entitled to more than $20,000 in compensation as this process played out," according to the letter.

"The district continues to pay the employee and a substitute teacher; we are also paying a legal team to prepare for a hearing and file the necessary responses as the case works its way through the system."

Another part of the settlement agreement means current and former students will not be required to testify, according to the letter.

Denney and Schuette also said finding a mutually agreed-upon resolution was the only way to guarantee Stewart did not return to Hanover-Horton.

"Had we gone through the tenure process and won, Mr. Stewart would still have maintained his teaching license and his pension," the letter said.

Stewart's pay stopped when he signed the agreement with the district.

At recent board meetings, several parents asked school officials to release more information into the investigation into Stewart.

But Denney and Schuette said there is no other information to release.

"We have released everything we have received and there is no additional information. The district does not have any additional notes from the investigator and does not know the names of additional people interviewed unless they were listed in the report," the letter stated.

"This agreement brings closure to the victims and the community sooner," the letter stated.

Superintendent John Denney was unavailable for interviews Wednesday.

Stewart still has a teaching license which means he could still work for another school in Michigan.

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