Gaston County School District overturns principal's decision, principal retires

GASTONIA, NC (WBTV) - Gaston County School district investigated an allegation of sexual harassment and declares the principal got it wrong.

It was reported a fourth grader at Brookside Elementary in Gastonia allegedly called his teacher "cute", but the school principal reported the student used another word to describe the teacher.   The principal thought that was inappropriate and said it was sexual harassment.

The principal suspended the student for two days. Parents say the punishment didn't fit the crime.

"Any teacher that would take that seriously," Brookside Elementary School grandparent Irene Irvin said.  "I think she should have just shrugged it off and taken it as a compliment."

The mother complained to the district about the suspension and that's when the district launched an investigation.

It found no sexual harassment happened. Now the district is regretting this happened.

"We will be sending an official letter of apology to the parents," Gaston County Schools Spokesperson Bonnie Reidy said.  "Also the suspension will not count against the child and the child will receive additional instructional assistance to make up for the time out of the classroom."

The incident has prompted the principal to retire. Parents are saddened he is leaving under these conditions.

"I've always agreed with the decisions he's made," PTA Leader Mandy Ballentine said. Reporter asked "Even with this case? "I would say yes," Ballentine answered.  "It's behind closed doors, don't know the whole case, but I do know his integrity."

No word when the principal's retirement will go into effect.

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Below is a statement from the Gaston County school district about this case.

Statement from School System Concerning Brookside Elementary School Student

After a thorough investigation by school officials involving the suspension of a fourth grade student at one of our elementary schools, it has been determined there was no sexual harassment.

We regret this situation happened. The superintendent has attempted to contact the family to offer an apology to the parents and student. The school system is also sending an official letter of apology to the parents and student.

The suspension will not count against the student and additional instructional assistance will be provided to the student for the classroom time missed.

If a concern is reported by parents to the district office, our procedure is to investigate it and follow up with the parents.