Huntsville City Schools board member arrested on harassment charge

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Huntsville police arrested Huntsville City Schools board member Michelle Watkins for harassment on Monday afternoon.

Watkins was booked into the Madison County Metro Jail at 1:36 p.m. on Monday and released about a half hour later without bond.

Watkins was elected to serve on Huntsville's school board two years ago, and in November was picked to serve as the board's vice president. In her time on the board, she's been an outspoken critic of the district's finances and past business deals.

Huntsville police told WHNT News 19 that Watkins' arrest is in response to an incident she was involved in over two months ago during a school safety engagement forum at Jemison High School. Police say the person who filed the report got a warrant, which was served on Monday.

Watkins doesn't directly mention what happened at Jemison High in a statement she sent to WHNT News 19. Instead, she believes her character is being attacked.

"I am not only innocent but with assurance that in 2019, I will continue to be unbought, unbossed and never bullied," her statement read.

Watkins is expected in court on Wednesday on the harassment charge. The board next meets on January 10th.

A Huntsville Police Department spokesman said the warrant is related to an October 3 harassment report at Mae Jemison High School.

Huntsville City Schools spokesman Keith Ward said in a statement that the district was aware of the situation, but it falls outside the scope of district administration.

"The district remains focused on preparing for our students' return in the coming days and ensuring that we have a strong Spring semester," the statement read.

Watkins sent the following statement to WHNT News 19 on Monday evening:

Good Evening Friends, Family, Well-Wisher, Constituents and Supporters

In the United States of America the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees each and every one of us the right to freedom of speech. As a former educator, I instilled this in my students on a daily basis that in exercising your rights that you are innocent until proven guilty. Today, I must say that I am in the student position and must be a believer of my very own teaching. 

As you may be aware there are individuals, politicians, naysayers and other adversaries that want to see our schools fail. In an effort to provide our schools with greater safety, supporting the decisions made by our Superintendent to remove/reassign instructional leaders and ineffective staff has caused some to become disgruntled. As a result of this support there have been personal accusations involving my good name and character. 

The ultimate goal is the assurance that the education is about our students and community and not bruised egos of adults that are resistant to positive and effective change that is not only required but necessary to successfully move our schools forward. 

As a result of my hard work for the students, parents, and taxpayers, I have been targeted and falsely accused of harassment. I am not only innocent but with assurance that in 2019, I WILL continue to be unbought, unbossed, and never bullied. 

I affirm that in the end the justice system will prevail and vindication will occur. I will continue to speak truth to power and continue to work for District 1. 

God Bless, 

Michelle Watkins

Huntsville City Schools, District 1 School Board Member