Hoover schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy today defended the school system’s disciplinary action against a Hoover High teacher charged with domestic violence toward her teen daughter at the school.
A school surveillance video from August 2015 shows teacher and coach Lori McCombs grabbing her daughter by the throat and pulling her away as her daughter resists.
The daughter in May of this year completed paperwork to have her mother arrested and charged with domestic violence, so police arrested McCombs in May, and she has a municipal court hearing scheduled for Sept. 7.
Hoover school officials late last year suspended McCombs for two weeks without pay, but then she returned to her job at Hoover High. Then in March she was charged with harassment against a 14-year-old girl at the school after being accused of grabbing the girl by the wrist and pulling her into a hallway in January, leaving marks on the girl’s arm. That harassment charged later was dismissed.
McCombs at some point was temporarily reassigned to the school system’s central office, but an online petition calling for her complete dismissal has gained more than 600 signatures.
Murphy today called a press conference to defend the school system’s actions. She said school officials thoroughly and completely investigated the incident involving McCombs and her daughter and doled out fair and appropriate discipline.
“Ms. McCombs made a serious error in responding impulsively and emotionally in the context of an argument with her daughter,” Murphy said. “She received and accepted appropriate consequences for her action, and we consider the disciplinary phase of the matter to be closed at the school board level.”
Murphy said the incident in question has been reviewed or is presently under review by at least two state agencies, including the Alabama Department of Human Resources, and two courts.
The Hoover school board’s discipline of McCombs followed school board policy, and “to date, no agency or court has directed us to take additional or different action regarding Ms. McCombs,” Murphy said.
However, until the legal proceedings reach “an acceptable level of closure,” McCombs will remain temporarily assigned to the central office, Murphy said.
The reassignment is not disciplinary in nature, Murphy said.
“Lori McCombs has consistently and commendably affirmed her desire to place the interests of the school system as a whole above her own,” Murphy said. “Barring something unforeseen, I fully expect that Ms. McCombs will return to her regular duties at some point in the future.”
Shane Sears, an attorney representing McCombs’ daughter, said the daughter, who has been living apart from her mother for several months, is glad her mother will not be at school with her for at least part of this coming school year. However, she is distressed that her mother may be allowed to return to school in the future, he said.
The disciplinary action taken by the school system “shows a callous disrespect for the safety of our students,” Sears said. “It shows that the Hoover board is not watching out for their best interests.
“I don’t know of any code of conduct, I don’t know of any employee manual for a teacher that says it’s appropriate for a teacher to choke a student,” Sears said. “It doesn’t make sense … I think immediate action should have been taken to remove her from the school system … If she will do this to her own daughter… what would she do to a child she doesn’t even like?”
Murphy said the safety and well-being of students is the highest priority of school officials. And while school officials respect the rights of people to share opinions and concerns about school system matters, they don’t let petitions drive decision-making.
“We don’t allow our hands to be forced,” she said.
It’s easy for people to sign a petition, “but often times, there are many additional facts and pieces of information which you don’t have,” Murphy said. “Often times, people take a side, but they don’t know all the sides of the story.”
Many of the people signing the petition on change.org don’t live in Hoover or even in Alabama, Murphy said.