Travis Holland, the Eagleville School teacher who was suspended after a video showed him rubbing a female student’s back, has been accused of other instances of inappropriate behavior, according to his personnel file.
Police and the Department of Children’s Services declined to pursue an investigation. Rutherford County Schools in June announced that it had completed its investigation of the teacher and baseball coach after a cell phone video showed him rubbing the student’s back.
Holland was charged internally with “conduct unbecoming a member of the teaching profession and inefficiency,” RCS announced in June. He received a 10-day unpaid suspension, reassignment to a smaller school and removal of all coaching duties. He will be required to complete counseling through Rutherford County’s Employee Assistance Program.
The Murfreesboro Post last week reviewed Holland’s personnel file.
Holland will start teaching at Holloway High School on Aug. 9, his file says. His suspension has been staggered out a few days at a time from late May through Aug. 8.
RCS’ investigation listed seven charges against Holland, his file says. The charges were detailed in a letter to Holland by Superintendent Bill Spurlock, who also was principal at Oakland High School when Holland was a teacher there prior to working at Eagleville.
The seven RCS charges
Charge 1 said, “Multiple students reported little to no instruction occurring in your World History Class for the 2018-2019 school year.” The students who were interviewed all had a 100 in the class and said they did not know if their assignments were ever graded. They described students in class spending most of the time on their phones and many non-history films being played. The charge said other teachers saw this, and along with faculty reported students’ complaints.
Charge 2 said students and teachers reported that Holland sometimes left students unsupervised. In November, when a teacher told the principal Holland was missing from class, the principal found him eating lunch with his family without having found someone to cover the class.
Charge 3 said Holland would take the students to the baseball field during instruction time and they would sit on bleachers and use their phones while he cut the grass or did other work on the field.
Charge 4 said Holland often had students sitting around his desk, especially female students and baseball players. Many of the female students were visitors from other classes. “Other teachers including fellow coaches verbally indicated that the students around the desk did not appear appropriate, especially with the number of frequent female student visitors, and advised you to stop the practice, but you did not.”
Charge 5 said, “Multiple students confirmed that female students would rub your shoulders during class. One student shared a video of this with their parents. The video was produced by the student and parent to the Central Office during its investigation. The video depicts you sitting at your desk. Students are around the desk and music is playing. A female student is standing behind you and is rubbing their hand on your back. The student filming the incident stated that they witnessed numerous instances of behavior between you and the student that made them uncomfortable, and felt proof was needed. The student reported that you once asked her to clean your desk off while you were sitting at the desk, and then invited her to sit with you. The interaction made the student uncomfortable considering her observation of your other interaction with students.
“One teacher reported seeing a student with their arm around you in a manner that made the teacher concerned.
“Students also reported you hugging students, rubbing students, and appearing to have ‘favorite’ female students, making the students uncomfortable. Another teacher reported that students had complained about the behavior to her, and she advised the students to report the matter to the school counselor.”
Charge 6 says a parent and teacher confirmed Holland had a Snapchat account. The parent said he spoke with Holland and that teacher about “the inappropriateness of your Snapchat account. The parent stated that you communicated with at least one student with the account. Another student that was friends with that student confirmed seeing your name appear on her friend’s Snapchat. The student in question also spent many class periods in your classroom despite not having you as a teacher.”
Charge 7 says a video in history class shows Holland and a female student hugging one another. The three students who provided the video said they saw numerous inappropriate touches between Holland and female students. The students said they heard their friends complain “but nothing changed.”
Charge 7 also says that on the day that video was filmed, Holland said he had no memory of the incident. He said he touched the student “absentmindedly” while working on baseball work. “Later, the family of the student indicated you told them that you were comforting the student following a death in her family. The student in this video is the same student that was filmed rubbing your shoulders earlier in the school year.”
Spurlock said that Eagleville Principal Bill Tollett was never notified of complaints about Holland having students sitting around his desk. By the time the new school year starts, district personnel, including Spurlock, will discuss protocol and process with him on such topics as grading and instruction, the superintendent said.
“It would go without saying the information that’s been provided with us will be a point of conversation” with Tollett, Spurlock said. “Mr. Tollett perhaps could have taken action on his part; I’m not saying he didn’t. We will revisit some of the things we found during the investigation and provide some clarity on protocol going forward.”
Tollett told the Murfreesboro Post that the only incident he had been aware of was the time Holland left his class unattended to eat with his family. He said he did not know about the social media account or any touching. In-service training in the fall will address such issues as faculty and staff reporting any such situations, he said.
Tollett also said that as soon as he saw the video that ultimately led to the investigation, he called the police and they reviewed the recording together.
Spurlock was asked about the district’s policy for teachers interacting with students on social media. He said it is prohibited outside of limited instances such as a coach using an app to send an indirect message to players.
Spurlock also said it is not appropriate for students to sit around a desk unless receiving help with a lesson. The district provides training for teachers every year on student interaction. The Employee Assistance Program will cover that material with Holland, Spurlock said.