Education

William Bennett, the Marion C. Moore high school teacher who is being investigated after fighting with a student, was suspended for a week at his previous position in Bullitt County Schools for making inappropriate comments to students, including intimations of violence.

Records obtained by WFPL show Bennett was suspended for five days in March 2019 after a Bullitt County Schools investigation revealed Bennett left his class unattended at North Bullitt High School and “made unprofessional comments to students over an extended period.” The suspension was later overturned with a three-person tribunal of an administrator, teacher and layperson finding Bennett’s actions within reason.

“You have made inappropriate comments to your students which include ‘are you watching animal porn again’, ‘I could just slap you’, ‘he put a tube up my Talley-whacker’, ‘I love guns; I love the 2nd Amendment; take it away, I’ll shoot you’, ‘Millennials are just stupid; they whine too much and are too sensitive’, ‘I cannot be fired because I have tenure’, ‘Transgenders are non-binary’, and ‘feminists are modern day Nazis’, among others,” a letter from Bullitt County Schools Superintendent Jesse Bacon reads informing Bennett of his suspension.

Bennett did not deny saying the comments, but claimed they were not inappropriate in context.

According to the letter, the investigation also found that Bennett refused to provide test results to students other than a final grade, left his class unsupervised and then derided students who complained about being left on their own.

In his appeal, Bennett claimed he left his class unsupervised in order to print off tests, and that he refused to provide test results because months had passed, and the student had dropped the class.

In addition, the letter says Bennett was cited for insubordination because he refused to meet with central office investigators for 28 days.

“The investigation into these allegations was hampered and unnecessarily delayed by your refusal to meet with the assigned investigator,” the letter reads.

Bennett was suspended for five work days, between March 19 and March 25, 2019, and had to undergo training mandated by the director of human resources and his principal, Joni Britt. Originally, he was suspended without pay, though a payroll sheet from May of that year shows Bennett was reimbursed for the lost wages.

Bacon also reported the findings to Wayne Lewis, then the state’s Commissioner of Education.

“It is my belief that Mr. Bennett’s behavior should be reported to the Education Professional Standards Board of Conduct Unbecoming a Teacher,” an April 8, 2019 letter from Bacon to Lewis reads. Superintendents are required to report educator misconduct to the state’s Education Professional Standards Board. 

The board gives teachers a chance to rebut districts’ claims and may or may not decide to open its own investigation into the educator. In May, he was reimbursed for his five-day suspension. A Bullitt County spokesperson said the suspension was overturned by a three-member state tribunal. The tribunal found the comments acceptable within the context Bennett offered.

In July Bennett was reassigned to teach students in the “home hospital” program, reserved for a small number of students who are too medically fragile to attend school in-person. Then in August 2019, he  was offered another contract at North Bullitt High School for the 2019-2020 school year. He accepted, but resigned on August 12, 2019—the same day he was hired by Jefferson County Public Schools.

According to Bennett’s resignation letter, he sought new employment after North Bullitt High ended the dual enrollment science classes he taught.

Records obtained from JCPS show Bennett was hired to work at Louisville Male High School in 2019, and transferred to Moore in 2020. 

Bennett is currently reassigned while JCPS investigates a physical altercation that occurred between Bennett and a high school student at Moore. Videos surfaced on social media last week showing Bennett, a white man, fighting with a Black teenage boy, Jamir Strane. Strane says Bennett provoked him with racist comments beforehand, suggesting he would die from gun violence.

JCPS spokesperson Renee Murphy said the district is reviewing the information WFPL shared with them about Bennett’s history and will follow up.

Bennett did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Records show Bennett also taught previously in Nelson County Schools, Elizabethtown Independent Schools and Hardin County Schools.

According to his personnel file in Bullitt County, Kentucky State Police did not find any criminal history when they ran his background check in 2014.

This story has been updated. After this story was first published, a Bullitt County spokesperson told WFPL Bennett’s suspension was eventually overturned.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.