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Teacher accused of sexual misconduct may resign

COAL GROVE

- The

future of a Dawson-Bryant High School teacher accused of sexual misconduct with a student

remains unclear with sides disagreeing on how the situation has been resolved.

Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier said Wednesday that he had been advised by Dawson-Bryant Superintendent Dr. James Payne that Steve Cook, who faced fourth-degree misdemeanor sexual imposition charges, had resigned and that district officials preferred to handle the matter internally rather than seek charges.

"We reviewed the case and conferred with the victims and their families and we also spoke with Dr. Payne and he said he had a letter of resignation. The victims are satisfied," Collier said.

Payne was not available for comment but Cook disagreed with Collier's assessment.

"I have not resigned. I don't know if I am going to," he said Thursday morning. "I have been cleared. I don't know what the problem is."

Collier sees the matter from a completely different perspective.

"I talked to Superintendent Payne personally and he told me he had a letter of resignation in his hands. I don't know if that has been withdrawn or what," Collier said.

When asked if the lack of a resignation changed the matter, Collier said it certainly could.

"He has not been cleared. You can put that in big, bold letters," Collier said. "This was a way to allow them to handle the situation internally without involving the legal system. That was fine with me and fine with the families, If the situation has changed, we will revisit the case."

Collier said the case had been marginal to begin with based on the conflicting testimony of those involved.

"Anytime you're dealing with inappropriate misconduct of a sexual nature, it can be tough. Often times, the victims are embarrassed by the process and to a certain degree they feel like they are victimized again, having to talk about intimate things that happened to them in front of strangers," Collier said.

"Often times they probably feel like their own credibility is questioned and that's why we have victim advocates in our office, to reassure the victims. These cases are difficult not only for the victim but the person charged.

"When we have these cases, we want to be darn sure it's a winnable case. Just the talk about the cases affects the person's rep. You can say you're not guilty a million times but people look at you differently."