PSHS teacher remains suspended

PARKERSBURG – A Parkersburg South High School teacher suspended last month over a Facebook post remains on administrative leave and recently filed a complaint with police saying he and his family have received death threats online.

David Foggin, a science teacher at South, was suspended last month following the post that seemed to mock the PSHS Gay-Straight Alliance, a student-organized club that supports gay, lesbian and transgender students.

Foggin was suspended for four days beginning March 18 after the Facebook post was shared numerous times and garnered hundreds of comments both in support of and against the teacher. The suspension led to a rally by supporters of Foggin and has received state and national attention in the media and by gay rights groups.

Wood County schools were closed March 24-28 for Spring Break and officials had hoped the vacation would diffuse some of the community anger over Foggin’s post and suspension.

Principal Tom Eschbacher last week confirmed Foggin had not been back in the classroom since his initial suspension.

“I know they are still investigating, but what they are investigating has not been shared with me,” Eschbacher said.

Eschbacher also said he had been given no indication of how long the suspension would remain in place.

“They are still investigating, and if anything is found, a determination (on the suspension) will be made at that time,” he said.

Superintendent Pat Law was out of the office Friday and Monday and could not be reached for comment. Board of Education President Tim Yeater said Monday board members are still waiting on a report from Law concerning the suspension and investigation.

Bob Harris, assistant superintendent of personnel, said Monday while most personnel investigations are led by the district’s Human Resources Department, this investigation is being led by the superintendent.

“In this one Dr. Law is taking the lead,” Harris said. “I’m involved to a little extent.”

Harris said the investigation is being conducted by Law, Director of Secondary Schools Mike Winland and Safety Coordinator Don Brown. Harris also said the West Virginia Department of Education has become involved in the investigation.

“We use resources from the West Virginia Department of Education when there is a need,” he said.

Betty Jordan, executive assistant to the state superintendent of schools, said the issue has been brought to the attention of the state Department of Education, but is not a state investigation.

Jordan said it is “not uncommon” for county officials to contact the department asking for guidance.

“At this point we don’t have any information on the investigation,” though state officials were aware it was happening, she said. “We don’t comment on county-level investigations and at this point it remains a county investigation.”

Foggin and his wife Nicki Foggin took down their Facebook pages during Spring Break. When the two reopened the pages, both said David Foggin and his children had received online death threats.

Chief Deputy Shawn Graham with the Wood County Sheriff’s Office said David Foggin registered a complaint with police concerning the threats. Graham said the threats “were unrelated to what he (David Foggin) said at South,” but declined to comment further on the nature of the threats.

Graham said officials have been told by Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Jason Wharton to not release the complaint because it is part of an ongoing investigation.

David Foggin and his wife said pictures taken from David Foggin’s Facebook page were given to the people who made the threats, but did not elaborate.

David Foggin, who is federally licensed to sell firearms, has been posting guns for sale on his Facebook page as part of a “Not Back to School Sale.” He has not publicly commented on his suspension other than saying online he does not know his status with the school system. David Foggin has previously declined to comment on his posts and suspension and could not be reached for comment Monday.

Harris said no timeline has been established on Foggin’s suspension. State law allows the superintendent to place an employee on administrative leave, paid or unpaid, for up to 30 days before requiring a vote by the school board. Harris said more time may be required to investigate this matter because district officials must conduct interviews with all of those involved.

“It’s a time-consuming process,” he said.

No personnel items are listed for discussion on today’s school board meeting agenda and no personnel suspensions are listed for a vote.