Former Hazel Green principal says he was threatened over removing student absences

HAZEL GREEN, Ala. -- The Madison County Board of Education made a dramatic decision on Tuesday regarding Hazel Green High School's leadership. The board chose a new principal for the school on the same day the former principal attempted to rescind his resignation. The former principal is accusing the school district of forcing him out because of how he handled attendance records.

Then-principal Darrel Long resigned from Hazel Green High School just one week into the 2018-19 school year. At the time school district leaders said it was due to "personal and family reasons."

On Tuesday, an attorney representing Long gave a much different version of events.

"He had basically been forced to resign saying that they were going to prosecute him criminally in some fashion for removing days that students had missed," says Huntsville attorney Eric Artrip.

Artrip tells WHNT News 19 those absences are from students who stopped coming to school. He says those students stay on the attendance roll for several weeks before a principal decides to officially withdraw them after all interventions are exhausted.

"When a student withdraws at some point they figure out this person isn't coming back. And so they go back and remove the absences from the last day they were actually in attendance," explains Artrip.

That process is something the former principal believes is common practice among schools in the state of Alabama.

"That seems to be fair. That those absences should not be counted against the school has no plans to return," says Artrip.

It's not clear precisely what the benefit of purging the absences is for the school. However, in February, the Alabama State Department of Education released a new school report card system. It grades each school based on a set of criteria. One of the categories a school is graded on is chronic absenteeism.

WHNT News 19 has reached out to the State Department of Education regarding the absence purging policy. We have not yet heard back. We'll continue to push for answers.

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