Students Protest After Principal Suspended

Monday, February 5th 2007, 4:27 pm
By: News On 6

Dozens of students walked out of class at a local high school protesting the possible dismissal of their principal. It happened Monday morning at Hilldale High just outside Muskogee. The News on 6’s Heather Lewin reports the demonstration in support of Principal Dewayne Pemberton was sparked by his being placed on administrative leave.

When the official announcement was made many students stood up and walked out.

"He's been really good to us so we just figured we'd come out here and stick up for him," Hilldale senior Raelynn Farthing said.

They gathered in front of the main doors, some wearing T-shirts in support of their principal.

"He'll do anything for us and I can't think of any reason they'd want to fire him," said Jennifer Saghi, a senior at Hilldale High School.

The superintendent and Muskogee Police finally put an end to the demonstration, telling kids to return to class. One student was taken away in handcuffs, arrested for disorderly conduct.

Principal Dewayne Pemberton has been at Hilldale for nearly 20 years. Students in strong support of him say they are frustrated that he could lose his job, and no one will tell them why. Superintendent D.B. Merrill says he can't comment on a personnel issue, and that while students have the right to be angry, they must follow procedure.

"We're gonna have a safe, secure environment for these young people to be in, and we're gonna try to keep the disruptions down so the educational process can take place here at Hilldale schools," Hilldale Superintendent D.B. Merrill said.

Pemberton says he was surprised last week, when he was first suspended, then told termination proceedings were underway.

"I really wasn't given any actual cause for that, that I can put my finger on at this time, except he said he can no longer trust me and I really don't know what that means," suspended principal Dewayne Pemberton said.

He suspects it's simply a push behind the scenes to get him out of the way.

"Maybe an administrator, I thought was a friend of mine, who has taken some conversations in private across the street and tainted them in some manner that would better fit him,” said Pemberton. “Maybe he wants my job, maybe he's getting brownie points, but I have done nothing legally, ethically or morally wrong."

Some at the school believe the dispute is between Pemberton and the assistant principal, over a coach driving kids to athletic events without the proper certification to drive a bus.

If officials plan to fire him, Pemberton will have a termination hearing and more is sure to come out at that time.