INTERVIEW: ASHLEY PEREIRA (survivor of “Alabama pastor who raped teen gets probation” story)

ASHLEY PEREIRA was raped by ex-Jason Greathouse in Alabama at 14, and her parents pushed her to marry him. They are now divorced. He just was let off with no jail time. They both now live in Tennessee (him in HENDERSONVILLE) and she’s forced to share custody of their child with him, while he doesn’t pay any child support.

PODCAST. FULL EPISODE.

OPINION: Pay Attention When Women of Color Disappear Too, Not Just the Gabby Petitos

by Ali Pensky

It is necessary to hold space and grieve for Gabby Petito while also recognizing that if Petito was Black, Latina, Asian, or Indigenous, the disappearance would not have garnered nearly as much attention.

Petito does not deserve any more collective advocacy, resources, and outrage than the thousands of other missing women in the United States.

Many people see a friend, a sister, an aunt, a mother, a grandmother, themselves, or a combination of these — in Petito. The story of a missing woman likely abused by her romantic partner is more relatable than it should be.

But why has this missing woman gone viral?

Gwen Ifill, who was a Black American journalist, author and newscaster, coined the term “Missing White Woman Syndrome” to bring attention to the media’s tendency to give extensive coverage to white, upper-middle class missing women — and little coverage to women of color, who go missing at much higher rates than white women. This dangerous practice creates the idea of “worthy” and “unworthy” victims.

The single mother, the sex worker, the woman who runs away, the nurse, the woman with an addiction, the houseless woman, the school teacher, the unemployed woman, and the woman who stays with her abuser for years, all deserve for their cases to be addressed with urgency. They are all worthy victims.

Mary Johnson, a Native American woman from the Tulalip reservation in Marysville, Washington, was reported missing on December 9th, 2020. Late last week, around the same time that Petito’s case began making headlines, the FBI put out a reward for whoever can help find the person or persons involved with Johnson’s disappearance. Though Johnson has been missing for almost a year longer than Petito, and her case has a reward tied to it, she is far less known than Petito.

The fact that Johnson’s case has made headlines and has a $10,000 reward attached to it is unusual, as the issue of missing Indigenous women has been pushed aside and underfunded by the government and media for years. Law enforcement’s lack of action gets blamed on legal complications such as jurisdiction. State and federal data regarding missing Native American women is not comprehensive, which is why The Sovereign Bodies Institute started doing their own research.

Black women also disappear at higher rates than white women, and often they are categorized as runaways, shifting the blame onto the missing woman as an individual, rather than making her safety a priority for law enforcement. The “Black and Missing Foundation” reports that “nearly forty percent of reported missing persons are persons of color, yet Black people make up only thirteen percent of the population.”

The FBI, major news outlets, youtubers, twitter users, and tik tok users alike have contributed to turning women like Gabby Petito into the “worthy” victim. Petito is a worthy victim, and so are the endless amount of women who don’t make the headlines, or whose cases are not even filed.

Ali Pensky is a resident of Knoxville, and a sophomore in college at Appalachian State University.

Tennessee Can Do Better for Women

Adrienne Pakis-Gillon knows about women in politics, from the passage of the 19th amendment to her disappointment with the representation of women in our GOP majority legislature. Ladies, can’t we do better for women and children in Tennessee?

FULL PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts here, and wherever else you like to listen here.

“I Thought We Were Opposed to Government Overreach”

“We’re creating a culture war where none existed and we do so at the expense of society’s most vulnerable. I THOUGHT WE WERE OPPOSED TO GOVERNMENT OVERREACH. Creating legislation for a problem that doesn’t even exist sounds like big gov telling us how to live.”

Heidi Campbell speaks out against Senator Hensley’s anti-trans athlete bill.

 

The Intersectionality Between Climate and Reproductive Justice

Hosts Isabella and Hale speak with Osub Ahmed, a senior analyst at the Center for American Progress, on the intersection between the climate crisis and reproductive rights. This is often an overlooked subject both in media and day-to-day conversations. That’s why we decided to dig deep and dissect the important relationship between the two.

Read the Environmental Reproductive Justice research

Check out In Your Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda

Sunrise Tennessee Interest Form

Find out what Native Land you are living on

Follow Sunrise Tennessee on Twitter and Facebook.

FULL PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts and wherever else you like to listen.

Raw Grits

Anna and Aftyn take a break from politics this week to reckon with coming of age and finding one’s purpose within the redefinition of Southern institutions. WARNING: lots of tears!

Mark Lee, Alleged Student-Harassing Overton County Teacher, Sues Accusers

If you’ve been follering us for any amount of time you’ve likely seen us talk about OVERTON COUNTY teacher Mark Lee, who taught at Livingston Academy until his recent 90-day suspension without pay and eventual transfer – which was supposedly tied to years worth of sexual harassment allegations by multiple students stretching back to 2003. (He’s tenured, so he’s likely back on payroll now)

Here’s our interview with 2 of the girls and their mothers:

It was also discussed at an Overton County school board meeting, during which multiple parents expressed their disgust that the school board had done little to protect the girls, and in fact had plans to transfer Lee to an elementary school until people hollered about it – yes seriously.

There was also talk of him being placed at an Alternative School, which is almost worse because that’s often where the most vulnerable students end up.

The District Attorney Bryan Dunavant, who we spoke with, says he didn’t bring charges against Lee because he had no proof of physical touching (although one of the girls says he rubbed his head on her stomach). He also told us he “wouldn’t want his daughter in Lee’s class.

A mother of another one of the alleged sexual harassment victims of the LIVINGSTON ACADEMY teacher (Mark Lee) in OVERTON COUNTY Says she spoke up since 2017, nobody listened. Multiple girls signed sworn affidavits on that occasion, including a cop’s daughter.

Lee is now suing the families and those who have stood up for them for “damages arising out of the defendants’ pattern of intentional, malicious, tortious false and defamatory statements impugning the plaintiffs’ character and reputation and published to the world on social media” as well as “invasion of privacy”.

This guy has some nerve.

HERE IS THE LAWSUIT if you’d like to read it. It includes the posts below, which it cites as defamation.

As a reminder, the director of schools suspended him for 90 days related to all of this.

If you or anyone you know has stories about Lee, or witnessed any of his behavior, feel free to holler at us on social media or at thetnholler@gmail.com – and follow The Cookeville Holler for developments

INTERVIEW: D.A. BRYANT DUNAWAY (On the Overton County Teacher Sexual Harassment Allegations)

FOR MORE INDEPENDENT, TRUTHFUL REPORTING LIKE THIS FOLLOW THE COOKEVILLE HOLLER HERE.

AND FOLLOW THE TN HOLLER HERE.

AND SUBSCRIBE TO GET OUR EMAILS HERE.

If you follow our Facebook & Twitter pages you’ve probably seen us Hollerin’ about the situation in Overton County, where despite decades of allegations of sexual harassment of students, a teacher named Mark Lee is still allowed to be a teacher – even after a 90-day suspension (which already ended).

The Overton County School Board has been very slow to respond to the situation, and Livingston Academy, where Lee taught, was slow to bring in the authorities.

District Attorney Bryant Dunaway investigated, but wrote a letter to the TBI saying he couldn’t recommend any criminal charges because most of the allegations were about things Lee said, rather than what he did to the girls physically – although one of the brave girls who spoke out says he did rub his head on her stomach in the back of class one day while telling the rest of the class to look forward.

He also says the statute of limitations had run out because of how slow the school itself and the school board were in reporting it.

It’s worth noting that of the 3 girls who came forward, only one reported it during the time that Mark Lee’s cousin has been the principal.

Yes, you heard that right. Oh, and did we mention that director of schools, who has the power to fire him, is married to a former student of his?

Multiple allegations reaching back decades. Yet they let Mark Lee keep teaching, and were planning to send him to an elementary school until y’all hollered loud enough to help stop that.

But, he’s still a teacher. For now.

The case is closed, but the mothers and daughters are speaking up, the community is starting to push back, so we decided to reach out to District Attorney Bryant Dunaway to ask him about the way he handled the situation, and what can be done.

Below is that conversation.

If you agree Lee should be fired at the very least, contact the Overton County School Board HERE: 931-823-1287

—-

HOLLER:  We wanted to ask a few questions about the situation with The teacher Mark Lee. Can you tell us a little bit about what your process was in terms of looking into the allegations?

DUNAWAY:  Well that’s been publicly known already – I had the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation conduct an investigation. That was the process. With that in mind, I only deal with criminal matters… to see if any crime had been committed. So I asked that the investigation be done and it was.

HOLLER:  So did they interview the girls?

DUNAWAY:  They did talk with the girls, yes.

HOLLER:  And what was their finding? Did they make any sort of judgment on the believability of the allegations or accusations? 

DUNAWAY:  I can send you a copy of the letter… (he sent to TBI)

HOLLER:  We saw the letter.

DUNAWAY:  That’s really the conclusion there, the answers to those questions are in there.

HOLLER:  I guess what I’m trying to get at is he’s still teaching and people understandably have concerns.

DUNAWAY:  I tried to articulate in my letter (to the TBI) – see, I’m a criminal prosecutor. I looked at the situation to see if a crime had been committed or if there was a crime that could be prosecuted. It wouldn’t be proper for me to speak whether he’s violated any school policy or should be a teacher. I mean, I wouldn’t want my daughter in his classroom, that’s for sure. But the school board – it’s up to them to take disciplinary action or to decide whether to keep him employed or not. Really, the purpose of the TBI investigation was to determine whether there was a prosecutable crime, and that’s a very different inquiry than other types of things. 

HOLLER:  Is there anything that can be done to open it back up?

DUNAWAY:  Well it’s been investigated, why would it be opened back up? 

HOLLER:  If there were new accusations.

DUNAWAY:  I said that in my letter too, if there is new evidence or new information I always consider that. Of course I look at things through the lens of – is there a crime, or whether there’s a crime that’s been committed and is it able to be prosecuted. Whether or not he is a teacher or should be a teacher, you know there’s a lot of things about that whole situation that I’m disappointed with. It’s disappointing to me that the school administration as well as the local attorneys who brought this to light admitted they knew about these allegations since 2017 and didn’t report it to law enforcement or my office. It would have been nice to have had a timely report.

HOLLER:  So that was the principal or that was the school board?

DUNAWAY:  That was the school administration. I didn’t speak to the school board. But no complaints have been made to the school since 2017. The attorney says that he was receiving complaints as early as 2017, and nothing was reported to law enforcement or to my office.

HOLLER:  Do you think that could have anything to do with the fact that the principal is his cousin?

DUNAWAY:  I can’t speak to that, I can only speculate. He hasn’t always been the principal. He wasn’t the principal in 2017 when the initial reports from the one young lady were made. There was a different principal then.

HOLLER:  Is there any criminal recourse they could take to keep him out of the education system?

DUNAWAY:  Not criminally. I did do an investigation like I already said. I had to evaluate and see if a crime had been committed, and as I said in my letter. Based upon the evidence the primary complaint of all the girls was that he used inappropriate language toward them. There was only one allegation made that there was any physical touching at all, and that was claiming that he rubbed his head on her stomach over a desk and that’s it. There’s no allegation made by anybody of sexual contact or anything like that it’s all. He makes inappropriate comments, so that in and of itself is not a crime. It’s inappropriate, it shouldn’t be done. You see what I’m saying? In my personal opinion he shouldn’t be a teacher. But is that a crime? No. As I said in my letter, that the closest thing you could come to would maybe be harassment, which is a misdemeanor,  misdemeanor assault. Which you know, because of the delayed reporting, the statute of limitations has run on those.

HOLLER:  So the statute of limitations has run out on those crimes? That seems like a short period of time.

DUNAWAY:  It’s a year. One year on a misdemeanor. And so the complaints from 2017 have clearly run, and the 2019 ones were done early in the school year if I remember right.

HOLLER:  Even on a minor?

DUNAWAY:  Yes. There’s not much proof, the only proof you have of the head touching the stomach is the young lady’s statement. Do I believe her? Yes. He denies it, there are no witnesses to it. So the proof is not the strongest in the world, but that’s the best you got. Now everybody is up in arms about it, and I don’t blame them. It is very inappropriate talk with students like that.

HOLLER:  Which was corroborated by a lot of different people.

DUNAWAY:  Which I believe happened too, 100%. But it’s not a crime. It’s terrible, it’s inappropriate, but it’s not a crime that I can prosecute. Just making verbal sexual related jokes and off-color jokes like that. So that’s the situation. And I’m only speaking to the criminal aspect of it. Whether he’s inappropriate or not, the school board has got to make a decision on that.

HOLLER:  Hopefully they’re realizing they have to do more than they’ve done. A few days ago they were going to assign him to an elementary school but they’re reconsidering that from what we understand.

DUNAWAY:  So one of the things that you saw in my letter is that we uncovered and took a statement from a now adult who said she was a student back in 2003. Her complaint was that he made the same type of inappropriate comments. Still no allegation to physical or sexual contact, but just making inappropriate innuendos.

HOLLER:  Well it seems like everybody would feel a little bit better if they knew that he wasn’t going to be in the classroom anymore.

DUNAWAY:  I agree there, I don’t disagree with that at all.

HOLLER:  Appreciate you talking to us.

DUNAWAY:  Anytime, you’re welcome.

OP-ED: ‘TIL DEATH DO US PART – Being a Teacher in 2020

‘TIL DEATH DO US PART

Being a Teacher in 2020

By Tiffany Crow

A Shelby County Schools teacher, parent, and a COVID survivor.

She wrote this letter to share her experience.

As schools across the nation prepare for the upcoming school year (whether it be in person, hybrid, or completely virtual) teachers and families are writhing in agony with a sense of impending doom. One minute, we hear from superintendents and elected officials that we will be following data and “science” in efforts to plan for the upcoming year, and the next, we are being threatened with reduced funding and told that we will be going back to school buildings, in person, regardless of climbing case numbers, increasing death rates, and individuals being left with lifelong residual health issues from a virus that we still know so little about.

The decision facing parents is certainly a difficult one, but I must ask you… What about the TEACHERS?

What about the teachers who have historically spent all of their own extra time and money to make up for deficits in funding and staffing capacity?

What about the teacher who has cancer, and will now be asked to enter into the world’s largest experimental petri-dish of infection?

What about the teacher who has a child at home awaiting an organ transplant, in a one income household?

What about all of the teachers who will get sick and experience lifelong health complications, financial ruin due to excessive absence, or death?

Have we really convinced ourselves that these people don’t matter?

What about teachers like myself, a Covid-19 “survivor?”

Did I survive Covid-19? Yes, I did survive, but I, a previously healthy 27 year old, am now faced with what could be lifelong and possibly debilitating health issues. I have been “well” for quite some time now, yet I am not “well.” Plagued with daily fatigue, muscle weakness, rashes, heart rate fluctuations, chronic head and neck pain, insomnia, PTSD, digestive issues, and cognitive/memory issues. I am still unsure just how extensive or lasting these issues will be, but now that I am two months out from having a “mild” case of Covid-19, I am STILL facing these health complications. I’ve read more about life insurance in the past two months than I ever have, which is something I never thought I would be doing at age 27.

But it’s not just me. Teachers across the nation are preparing for the worst. We are finalizing wills, upping our disability insurance, and maxing out on life insurance benefits. Those of us who don’t already have life insurance are trying to find more information on which policy is the best option for them. Many teachers are already purchasing PPE, cleaning products, plexiglass dividers, and other band-aid solutions to the astronomical catastrophe that awaits upon school re-entry. Of course, Covid-19 has made significant impacts on the way we used to live. Teachers are now having to purchase protective equipment to keep themselves, and the children, safe. Education is such an important sector though, so many teachers do understand that they are essential workers. More people are even looking to become teachers after this pandemic. People are contacting resume writers, such as those at https://www.arcresumes.com/local/michigan/, to help them create an engaging resume to increase their chances of getting hired.

Is virtual instruction anyone’s first choice, during normal circumstances? Most of us would say “NO!” I, too, believe there is no replacement for in person schooling, but I disagree with people who say virtual instruction cannot be valuable. I taught virtual summer school, and found it to be quite similar in strength and weakness to in person schooling. The advantages were great, however. My students were able to become true 21st century learners, and I was able to become a true 21st century teacher. I learned valuable tools that will work with virtual instruction, but will also be highly effective and enriching when we do return to “normal.” I was able to build community with students and parents, and my students were able to develop a sense of intrinsic motivation that I had not seen at large during the regular school year.

What began as a stressful virtual experience, ended with both student and teacher growth. I urge people to understand that planned virtual instruction is completely different from the patchwork crisis schooling that was offered last spring.

While I understand the need for schools to be open for working families, I respectfully ask that you remember that schools were never meant to serve as free childcare. Teachers are not trained or educated to serve as babysitters. We are also not trained or educated to serve as healthcare professionals or nurses. The bulk of our training and coursework centers around providing a service.

Although teachers and schools, for decades, have offered a variety of services outside of the realm of the service we actually offer (education), we have finally met our match with the coronavirus pandemic. This is a problem that may be beyond our efforts to “fix,” as teachers have done for so long. I certainly do not have the answers to solve the ills of a capitalist-obsessed society, but I want to be clear that the service we provide CAN and SHOULD be offered remotely until it is safe to physically enter school buildings.

The current state of our existence is filled with unrest, anxiety, sadness, and pain. It’s honestly not surprising to me that, according to this article looking at the target market of hemp products, Millenials like myself are spending more money on CBD solutions to help us manage our mental health during these uncertain times. Like the rest of the world, I wish that we could press a magic button and return to “normal,” but the reality is that we can’t, not for some time, anyway. What and who are we willing to risk in an effort to re-enter schools in person? How many deaths are acceptable? How many people, like me, who will live with health issues for the foreseeable future is acceptable? Does your fear of an educational setback outweigh my fear for my life?

For once, teachers are voicing hesitation, frustration, and fear, instead of just coming up with a self-sacrificing solution to the problem, and society is appalled. For once, we are begging to be able to put our own family and health first, and the backlash has been intense. Our passion is being weaponized, we are being accused of not caring about children, or not being flexible enough, or even being lazy and unwilling to work. How soon we forget the “backbone” of our society, along with all of the good work we have done. Teachers are strong, resilient, and creative, but this is one situation I don’t think we can “Donors Choose” our way out of.