State Department of Education investigating former Hazel Green principal

HAZEL GREEN, Ala. - Why would former Hazel Green principal Darrell Long walk away from a six-figure salary job that brought him success since 2009? It's been a mystery for nearly a month. However, WHNT News 19 has learned Long is currently under investigation by the Alabama State Department of Education.

A 108-page personnel file tells a story of Long's nine-year career at Hazel Green High School. Several outstanding evaluations, contracts, and certifications fill up most of his Madison County School District personnel file. The most recent documents filed include his resignation email to Superintendent Matt Massey on August 8 and a letter from the Alabama State Department of Education.

The letter, dated the same day as the former principal's resignation letter, says the ALSDE was looking into possible illegal conduct committed by Long. The letter does not specify what the allegations are. However, the State Department of Education tells WHNT News 19 the investigation is ongoing. At this point, the department said it has not recommended any negative action regarding Long's certification or license.

Last week, Long claimed he was forced out of his position and threatened with criminal prosecution. However, in his email to the Madison County School District Superintendent, he stated his resignation was due to "personal and family" reasons.

An attorney representing Long says the former principal believed he was pressured to resign because of how he handled the purging of attendance records. Long told WHNT News 19 it was "common practice" to remove marked absences for students who stopped coming to school.

There are a number of Alabama laws regarding school attendance records, which are used to help determine school funding and can be used in court cases. It's not clear what law authorizes altering those records.

An ALSDE spokesman says the department won't make further comment until the case has been "thoroughly examined."

On Wednesday, the attorney representing Long said the former principal denies any wrongdoing.