A 67-year-old civil rights organization in Hall County is standing behind one of its members who was fired on his first day of substitute teaching.
Clindon Middleton has the full backing of the Newtown Florist Club, Executive Director Rev. Rose Johnson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.
The club was established in 1950 by African-American women who felt a civic responsibility to their community, according to the group’s Facebook Page.
“He has our full, unwavering support,” Johnson said.
Middleton was arrested Nov. 1 after he allegedly grabbed a student by the wrist and twisted the boy’s arm behind him, Gainesville police spokesman Kevin Holbrook previously said.
The 29-year-old was also accused of inappropriate contact with a second boy at Gainesville Middle School.
His first day as a substitute was his last for Gainesville City Schools, officials said.
But Johnson said in a letter to the school superintendent that Middleton is a valuable community servant and leader who worked in the community gardening program.
Superintendent Jeremy Williams said he received Johnson’s letter Tuesday afternoon and plans to communicate with her.
The club asked in that letter that the battery charges be dropped. Middleton was released from the Hall County jail on a $5,000 bond.
“We did not file charges against Mr. Middleton,” Williams said. “He was relieved of his duties as a substitute.”
As a volunteer gardener who works with local children, Middleton has proved a positive role model, Johnson said.
“He has a uniquely creative ability to capture the attention of kids as he teaches them about vegetables and the importance of eating well,” Johnson wrote in the letter to the superintendent. “Mr. Middleton is an example of what our hope for young men who were born and raised in this community will become.”
Johnson’s letter on behalf of the Newtown Florist Club asks for leaders to consider the totality of circumstances and accept some of the responsibility for what happened in class Nov. 1.
“Our hope is that the Gainesville City School system does not become one that prosecutes teachers who are placed in positions of trying to manage or control students who have behavior problems and need a greater level of support,” Johnson wrote.
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