What Would Jesus Do? with Elizabeth Madeira

Elizabeth Madeira, an organizer for the Southern Christian Coalition, discusses recent Tennessee legislation and her views on the intersections between Christian morality and public policy.

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

Make our internet LOCAL

Aftyn and Anna are joined by April Jarocki, the coordinator with the Southern Connected Communities Project, who along with members of the Clearfork Valley, built their own internet by establishing a wireless internet system at the Highlander Research and Education Center in Jefferson County, Tennessee. April highlights the role of the pandemic in exacerbating the digital divide and discusses what broadband justice looks like to her community.

Donate to SCCP by clicking here!

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

Evacuation Before Nashville Bombing

“IT’S LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF A MOVIE”

Metropolitan Nashville Police Department has released Officer Sipos’ BODY CAM footage of the moment the Nashville Bombing occurred. They demonstrated heroic courage and calm under pressure.

 

KANEW: “TENNESSEE REPUBLICANS ARE TURNING THEIR BACKS ON DEMOCRACY”

TENNESSEE REPUBLICANS ARE TURNING THEIR BACKS ON DEMOCRACY

On November 3rd Donald Trump lost the presidential election. I know it’s hard for some people to hear that, but that’s all the more reason it needs to be said. It was close in some key swing states, but President-Elect Joe Biden is now up by tens of thousands of votes even in those states, and Republican secretaries of state across the country are telling us there is zero real evidence of widespread fraud. 

Obviously that hasn’t stopped President Trump from refusing to accept defeat. He told us he would only accept the outcome if he won before the election, and he has followed through. He now tweets incessantly, day after day about how he has been cheated – pointing to vote counts being changed, dead people voting, Republican observers not being allowed into the counting rooms… all of which have been debunked one by one by one. Trump is tweeting about fraud publicly while his lawyers admit in court, under oath, that they are not actually saying any such fraud took place.

Simply put, there is no evidence of widespread fraud. He is lying. There is no debating that. 

What is up for debate is why. Is it simply so he can drag this out as long as possible to give himself more time to milk money from his supporters? Money which he claims is going to help him fight the lawsuits he keeps losing, but which the fine print tells us he is stuffing into his own pockets

Or does he really think he can take this all the way to the end and overturn this election with the help of Republican-held state legislatures, who would have to turn their backs on democracy, throw out the results of the election in their states, and assign their electors to him without any justification for doing so?

One would hope he knows the latter is an impossibility, since it would essentially mean the end of The American Experiment.

One would hope he would understand that even Republicans in his party would deem that to be a bridge too far.

But would they? If they’re anything like the Republicans in Tennessee, perhaps not. 

So far here in Tennessee, the only prominent Republicans who have been willing to acknowledge that Joe Biden is president-elect are ex-Senators Bob Corker and Bill Frist. Senator Lamar Alexander has said nothing. Governor Lee has expressed his support for Trump’s efforts, as have Senator Marsha Blackburn, senator-elect Bill Hagerty, and both chambers of the Tennessee supermajority legislature. The Tennessee Republican delegation of congressmen have also gone right along with the charade, including Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, who told a news network “what we’re seeing is fraud,” but when pressed for specifics pointed to Nevada – where the 3000 ballots in question had already turned out to be mostly military families who had been transferred.

Is this what it has come to, Republicans? One can only imagine the outrage they would be demonstrating had Hillary Clinton refused to concede, especially if she had a 5 million vote deficit in the popular vote rather than the 3 million advantage she ended up with (in fact, they did rip her viciously for even just having questions in the aftermath of 2016).

Or worse yet, imagine their reaction if Obama were doing any of this. 

Perhaps they think they’re just humoring Trump, and that at the end of the day this will have no lasting impact after he inevitably leaves the White House. But that’s shortsighted. Tennessee Republicans had a chance to stand up, finally show some leadership and backbone, and say enough is enough. Instead, they signed up to join this circus and help Trump trash our election process, a favor to our anti-Democracy enemies that ultimately means Trump’s loyal following of millions of Americans will now forever believe this was a rigged election. 

Nobody knows what lasting impact that will have in the days, weeks, and years to come, but what we do know is Tennessee Republicans have shown us they put their loyalty to Trump and their own self-preservation ahead of their commitment to the democratic process that undergirds the very notion of America, and that in itself is the opposite of patriotism.

Free and fair elections, respecting the will of the people, is what makes us who we are as a country. Republicans love to invoke the Founding Fathers when convenient, but any objective reading of their intentions makes it clear they set up our constitution to guard against efforts to drag us back towards the authoritarianism our country was established in opposition to, the tyranny they fought and bled to keep us away from in favor of the freedom to elect our own leaders and center the people’s voice. A freedom many brave Americans have since died to preserve.

This is a dark path we’re heading down, one few would have believed possible even just a few short years ago. This has already become a black eye on our nation’s history, and the further down this road we go, the bigger the stain will be on the reputations of this crop of Tennessee Republicans – a stain which will not soon come off.

Justin Kanew is the Founder of the Tennessee Holler

Trump’s Stupid Coup Attempt

Trump refuses to concede the election to Joe Biden despite there being no evidence of fraud and being laughed out of court in his attempts to prove his victory. Today, Secretary Pompeo said that there will “be a smooth transition to Trump’s second term.

This is an undemocratic power grab which is the definition of a coup. It may be a coup, but it’s a coup nonetheless. We need to stay vigilant. Click here to find resources on how to get plugged in and fight back.

Democrats Need to Build Trust in their Communities

State Senator Jeff Yarbro on why Tennessee Dems need to get out into the community and build trust with people.

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

Jim Cooper Grills Postmaster DeJoy

Representative Jim Cooper:  “Did you pay back several of your top executives for contributing to Trump’s campaign?”

DeJoy:  “That’s an outrageous claim, sir.”

According to employees, it’s not so outrageous at all.

Original post.

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

FLOODS OF JUSTICE PODCAST

FLOODS OF JUSTICE is out with a new episode! Pastor Kevin Riggs and Kevin Sage chat with Mike Washington about his incredible journey of cycling nearly 3000 miles across the country in memory of his late wife.

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

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.