A mini controversy is bubbling around state representative James White's campaign to represent state House District 19, after his opponent in the Republican primary, state representative Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton raised questions Friday about "inappropriate sexual discussions" White had with his students as a teacher in Livingston ISD. Morgan Smith unpacked the allegations in a story for the Texas Tribune on Friday:
State Rep. James White left his job as a teacher in the Livingston Independent School District after repeated complaints of inappropriate sexual discussions in class, according to documents made public late Friday by his political opponent, Rep. Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton , R-Lumberton.
In a statement released shortly after, White called the allegation "malicious, untrue gossip," saying that he left in order to take another teaching job closer to home.
In a news release citing documents from Livingston ISD, Hamilton's campaign claimed that "White was repeatedly the subject of complaints from parents and students for inappropriate sexual discussions in class. The behavior resulted in repeated investigations, reprimands and public apologies."
An investigation into something he said in his history class resulted in his resignation from the school during the summer of 2007, Hamilton's campaign claimed. White said the investigation Hamilton referenced was sparked because he taught his students about Lawrence v. Texas : "The complaint that led to an investigation involved my teaching high school seniors in a government class about important Supreme Court cases that included the Texas sodomy case. I stand by my actions," White said.
Hamilton's campaign also released an August 2006 memo from the principal at White's school asking him "to avoid use of sexual references in making your teaching points in the classroom." Those references included White allegedly asking students questions such as "what is more intimate … sharing your credit scores or having sexual intercourse?" White claimed the allegations Hamilton describes were taken out of context: "No other issues raised by Tuffy Hamilton’s smear campaign, which involve comments taken out of context, resulted in any action taken against me," White said. And on Monday, a spokesman for Livingston ISD told Smith that the district never asked White to resign.
The Beaumont Enterprise 's Bayou blog opined that Hamilton appears "excruciatingly desperate" by raising these allegations. That the campaign took a dirty turn is somewhat inevitable, however, given the circumstances: "This is what happens when you redistrict and pit TWO current representative against each other."
Smith pointed out on Twitter that Livingston ISD was plagued by sexual scandal involving teachers and students in the early part of last decade, before White came to the district. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram devoted 3,300 words to the scandal in 2004.
Governor Rick Perry is headed to the Catfish Cabin in Lumberton on Thursday to campaign with White, whom he endorsed. At BurkaBlog, TEXAS MONTHLY 's Paul Burka held that Perry could take a hit if the allegations surrounding White amount to anything. "[T]he fleas are going to land on somebody. As of now, the number one candidate is Rick Perry, who endorsed White," Burka wrote, adding that he believes it is "rare for state officials to endorse as far down the ballot as state legislative races." If White's campaign falls apart now, "the governor’s influence is going to take a hit," Burka concluded.