Teacher says he was forced to resign over racist allegations

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A high school teacher in Florida resigned from his job over allegations that he belonged to a hate group on Facebook and posted racist comments.

Vernon “Chuck" Henderson, 40, told the Tampa Bay Times that he is innocent and that his Facebook account was hacked. The social studies teacher at Tampa's Gaither High School said the Hillsborough County public school district pushed him to resign.

“I didn’t really have a choice,” he told the newspaper on Thursday. “They called me at 3:30 yesterday. They said if I didn’t resign, they would put me before the school board, which would fire me and go after my pension and my teaching certificate. They gave me until 5 o’clock.”

The allegation raised on a Twitter site called We Will Be Ruthless, claimed Henderson was part of a members-only Facebook group called the Right Wing Death Squad, the Times reported.

Henderson told the newspaper that he didn't make the posts, and that he believes someone took over his account during a recent hospital stay.

“This is my character,” he said. “This is not comments I would make.”

Henderson, who has worked for the school district for 17 years, said that after the Twitter activity started last week, he began receiving threatening phone calls, which he reported to the police. He told the newspaper he also contacted his principal and the district’s Office of Professional Standards.

Gaither principal Thomas Morrill told the Times he also contacted the professional standards office. He called the situation sad and added that the school supports “diversity in our school and with our students and in our school system.”

Tanya Arja, the school district's director of communications, said the incident was under investigation.

“In the midst of the investigation, he chose to voluntarily resign," Arja said.

School district Superintendent Addison Davis said in a statement that the district will not tolerate racism.

“Any behavior that has a detrimental effect on our students and staff, or the positive culture at our schools, will be dealt with in a swift manner," the statement said.

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This story has been updated to correct a typo in the second paragraph.