Grundy Co. to have 11 co-valedictorians following arrest of student
Grundy County School Board members voted Thursday night to have 11 co-valedictorians this school year.
Grundy County School Board members voted Thursday night to have 11 co-valedictorians this school year.
The Grundy County district's Facebook page said all students with a 4.0-grade point average will become co-valedictorians.
The reason stems from a high school senior arrested earlier this month.
Police say Trevor Sanders harassed another student after she was awarded valedictorian status despite graduating a year early.
On Saturday, Sheriff Clint Shurm responded to Sanders' arrest with the following statement:
"Considering recent events surrounding the April 4th arrest of Trevor Sanders, I feel it is necessary to address this issue one final time. There is this preposterous notion that my office acted outside the guides of the Constitution and state law. Tennessee Code Annotated 8-8-201 outlines the duties of the Office of Sheriff. The first line of that statute states, 'It is the sheriff’s duty to: (1) Execute and return, according to law, the process and orders of the courts of record of this state, and of officers of competent authority, with due diligence, when delivered to the sheriff for that purpose. A warrant issued by the Circuit Court Clerk’s office is an order of the court. This is exactly what happened in the arrest of Trevor Sanders. The father of the victim acted to protect his child as any good father would and should do. This child had done nothing more than excel in her academics. She had absolutely no input surrounding the decisions that started this firestorm.
Sadly, some people are more interested in the drama and outlandish attempts to tear people down than to bring resolve to the situation. This is evident by the actions of Chattanooga radio personality Jason Walker after I asked him to provide proof of Tennessee citizenship to comply with his open records request. Rather than providing proof, Walker took to the airwaves (provided by 96.5 WDOD) and social media in an absolute entourage of disgraceful attacks against me, my Christian faith, the Sheriff’s Office and Grundy County. Oddly enough, Walker posted his phone number and requested I call him. I called, and he never answered. This is a personal invitation to Jason Walker to meet with the, 'Pastor Sheriff', and find resolution to this matter.
Finally, when I was elected in 2014, the voters of Grundy County chose me to run the Office of Sheriff. An office that belongs to the people. Those are the people in which I am accountable. They elected me to make tough decisions and to fix a failing agency. I along with my staff have done that. I was elected to carry out the duties of the Office of Sheriff even when others didn’t agree with it. That just comes with the territory. Keep in mind even Trevor Sanders posted this on Facebook after his arrest, 'I hold no animosity toward the officers who came to arrest me. They did their job to the best of their abilities. Once I reached the jail, they were also unbiased, but sympathetic, and made sure that I felt as reasonably comfortable as I could be'. I would say he is 100% correct."
Radio personality, Jason Walker, Sheriff Shrum mentioned in his statement responded on Facebook:
I was minding my own business when my phone and social media wall blew up again. This time, I was notified of being named personally by you in some rant released under your letterhead. I suppose I am obliged to respond, since it described me in a stance allegedly opposed to your office. I wasn’t aware I had a problem with you, I thought I was doing some cursory study at the request of and with support of a number of your citizens.
If you have stopped allowing your citizens to speak with people outside county lines, please advise.
It is my sincere hope you didn’t fly off the handle and say a bunch of angry... oops, you did.
Ordinarily, some little guy from out-of-county would not gain the attention of a sitting sheriff. Media has numerous people, and usually they fly in and out of Grundy County fast enough to collect a few notes and head home. Due to the seriousness of events happening in your county at the moment, I’ve watched a number of peer colleagues invest significant time attempting to find out just what is going on.
The reason I gained an interest in the inner workings of all-things-Grundy is very simple. Your county’s citizens contacted me around the time of Trevor Sanders’ arrest seeking outside assistance to parse the events and attempt to make sense of them. As yet I have not been able to do so, as no sense can be made of a teenager being arrested for First Amendment rights violations. But let’s not discuss that, let’s shift blame to Jason and put his name on TV as the problem. Great call.
Let’s piece apart the official public message you just released:
The first few paragraphs have to be stipulated, as your office received a warrant from the Circuit Court Clerk and performed an arrest. If you’ve seen any complaints I’ve made directly about this portion of the story post my initial inquiries, please jog my memory.
“The father of the victim acted to protect his child as any good father would and should do. This child had done nothing more than excel in her academics. She had absolutely no input surrounding the decisions that started this firestorm.” ~ Clint Shrum, GCSO
In your official release as sitting sheriff of Grundy County, these are your words. These place the sheriff’s office directly on one side of the matter, in clear agreement with the parent who chose to file a warrant for the arrest of Trevor Sanders. What was the victimization which reached the level of TCA regarding harassment? The school system policy and her parents’ utilization of that policy created a “firestorm,” yes sir.
Even the school board attorney (who I reviewed with far more direct disfavor than even you) admitted they could not foresee every unintended consequence when policy is written, and the school board was forced into a corner which created 11 valedictorians. So, obviously, there was a problem with the policy that was more than mildly serious. The collective indigestion among the senior class and their families was palpable, and the common result of bad policy is bad press. This created a loud outcry, one which was addressed not by getting to the root cause - but by threatening students and ultimately throwing one in jail. This is the type of behavior I would expect in Yemen or Equitorial Guinea, not Altamont. Yet, you defended not only the procedural aspects of GSCO in this matter, you placed on record a statement from your office that any good father would take the same action. That, in basic terms, is an endorsement. How could anyone who disagrees, and there are many, come to you with any outside hope of finding an impartial ear for healthy discussion?
Trevor goes to jail. I get my name on TV in a complaint. Teeeee-rific.
Your citizenry has been telling stories out of class, sir, and I am thankful your badge turns into a pumpkin somewhere along Highway 108 toward Whitwell. I can handle your PR campaign against me, because I’m nearly three decades into this and my skin is likely made of titanium by now. Trevor is 18, and this process has been frightening to him. He has done nothing wrong, at least from the result of my massive hunt to find out if he has.
Based on your assessment of these matters, when my daughter was senior cheer captain of our high school I would have basically had to hire an officer to remain on standby. I’d still be in court. Did I have questions about your procedures? Absolutely I did. When the incident report was made, it showed no discussion with Trevor, school authorities or witnesses to help develop the narrative for probable cause? These are things I do not know, and not being a member of the law enforcement or legal communities I would prefer reasonable open discourse rather than having my name on television as a troublemaker with yours as the quote source. I can’t apologize for trying to be thorough, and every last item I wrote can be easily sourced. Only after the fact and in the context of a public relations nightmare did you ask to talk to Trevor, and I find even the notion he could get a fair shake from you dubious considering the on-record praise you’ve offered from behind your badge for the complainant.
Your defense of the valedictorian is unnecessary. Who has been complaining about the valedictorian or addressing her in any negative manner? No one. And according to all of the conversations I’ve had, recorded audio in the principal’s office, and every other anecdotal account - Trevor Sanders wasn’t either. Your statements regarding the father’s child are superfluous, as every single person I’ve encountered on every side of the policy issue has done nothing but congratulate her for academic performance.
The differences of opinion, among the (actual) 2018 senior class and many within the general public, have to do with “how” the valedictorian decisions were arrived - not the individuals involved. These valid policy opinions become very serious when the commentary resulted in a family taking action to arrest a young man to “make this stop” or however it was worded in the warrant.
My opinions on the reason for the warrant differ substantially from yours. But I’m just in it for the drama, right Sheriff? It’s not like I don’t have a full time job and can make these extraordinary time and travel investments for kicks.
Fortunately, as a United States Citizen, I can express my opinions on policy without fear of arrest. Trevor Sanders was not afforded that freedom, however the court system will have the opportunity to opine. I’m certain the Sanders family, seniors in agreement and everyone supporting the Sanders family is pleased to learn their equality-based sheriff’s office has clearly stepped into one camp. It will make them feel delightfully safe when they encounter your office in the future, rolling the dice of course on the level of training you have provided the individual with whom they interact.
You have a vested interest in the safety, protection and overall satisfaction of Grundy County citizens with their government offices. I do not. I have interest and concern, but not a vested interest like you and the citizens you serve. I am an outsider, one which was asked to look at one issue which I have done reasonably and I believe adequately and ethically. The results of my review have been rather unpleasant on several counts, and this seems to have (as we country folk say) found its way to your craw.
I get it, Sheriff. What is an outsider doing poking around affairs that are none of their business, and why are they so persistent when they have nothing to gain... why do they care?
The next paragraph was rather interesting to me:
“(1) Sadly, some people are more interested in the drama and outlandish attempts to tear people down than to bring resolve to the situation. (2) This is evident by the actions of Chattanooga radio personality Jason Walker after I asked him to provide proof of Tennessee citizenship to comply with his open records request. (3) Rather than providing proof, Walker took to the airwaves (provided by 96.5 WDOD) and social media in an absolute entourage of disgraceful attacks against me, my Christian faith, the Sheriff’s Office and Grundy County. (4) Oddly enough, Walker posted his phone number and requested I call him. I called, and he never answered. (5) This is a personal invitation to Jason Walker to meet with the, “Pastor Sheriff”, and find resolution to this matter.”
Let’s take that apart sentence by sentence. I have marked each sentence of your statement with a number so we can discuss them openly, one by one.
Reminder to the reader: I am a private citizen with some recognition as a public figure through my 25 years in broadcasting. In the article I wrote and submitted to the Grundy County Herald I specifically stated my actions were my own and not submitted through my employment. This is a line which matters, as I am responsible for my content. I am not only open to criticism and correction, I welcome it. I relish the opportunity for wide open conversation. In this letter, I am responding to the direct writing of a duly-elected, sitting county sheriff who seems irritated by my actions of late.
Sheriff, I am calling into question your memory and evidentiary standard via the above paragraphs. Especially the evidentiary standard of your public statement, because wow.
(1) Denied. Many people in Grundy County have well-thought, eloquent public opinions which deserve proper hearing through the prism of actively engaged public officials rather than accusatory figureheads who squelch free speech. Your soliloquy castigating “drama” and “outlandish attempts” discounts the many citizens of Grundy who feel the deal they are receiving is very raw, and that (as an example) the recent school issue which resulted in the Sanders arrest began with exploitation of bad policy. The opportunity existed to refer this policy for correction rather than use it to deny the Class of 2018 the opportunity to field their own valedictorian. As a sitting sheriff, you are very aware policies and legislation do not always have equal relativity with right and wrong. When bad policy is used in a manner which upsets many good people, those good people often speak loudly in opposition. Those good people included Trevor Sanders, and Trevor did his time in ISS and ultimately went to jail. Naturally when I was asked to look at this matter I needed to know everything possible about the situation at hand and every individual involved.
(2) Denied. Sheriff, I just saw your response on News 12. Thanks for the free plug, unfortunately your information was wanting for some accuracy. Any accuracy.
Social media conversation initiated by Sheriff of Grundy County Clint Shrum on Monday, April 9th, 2018 at 7:32 PM, to “me” demonstrating that I accepted his request to communicate and answered his comments:
(3) Denied. Sheriff, in that same Facebook conversation (I can provide more screen shots, or you can do it yourself, you told me that you (as in “you”) searched the address I submitted and it “came up to some apartments.” I explained to you in the same conversation that I own the Tennessee property, and you stated as the last statement to me that you would “revisit it tomorrow.” According to that missive, tomorrow never came. I never contacted your office again about that matter, because it wasn’t necessary.
I hate to break it to you, Sheriff, but I no longer needed your help. I thought it was extremely suspect that you denied my open records request and you’re right, I took issue with it. Of all the problems your department reportedly has with documents, evidence and training (according to your citizens and, well, the news), it is truly laughable that you’d flag a 25 year local broadcaster for providing insufficient information for an FOI - except for the fact it was very sufficient and you’re fortunately not the only source for information in Grundy County.
Further on, you appear to take pity on yourself while invoking the entire county-at-large for situations which just do not exist.
You are very, very incorrect about my use of airwaves. The only commentary I made was regarding the Trevor Sanders situation directly, as it was a news item relevant to our regional audience. There was no commentary regarding you or any elected official whatsoever. This is why I clearly delineated my independent position when I submitted the article to Grundy Herald, specifically requesting the paper include that statement with the article. I am extremely aware of the stark difference between communication methods which belong to me, and methods which belong to others and the public via federally licensed facilities.
So, please, Sheriff, tell me where I have attacked you, disgracefully or otherwise? This is seemingly the problem in Grundy County in terms of free speech: You don’t like it much. Trevor spoke out, he got arrested. I am making valid inquiry with the resulting commentary, and I am “disgracefully attacking” you. Questions about policy and procedure are not “attacks”, they are questions about policy and procedures. As chief law enforcement officer, you are chief educator in this regard.
I am formally requesting your response with commentary from me which you find to be a “disgraceful attack.” This letter alone is absolutely direct and unpleasant, yet required writing exclusively in response to your snarky dispatch which wound up on television. I have a right to defend myself, as I feel your self-involved epistle was indefensible.
I deny attacking your Christian faith. Before I go any further, I remind you and the general public I am responding to a sitting Tennessee sheriff who has now formally gone on record challenging my activism. Where have I attacked your faith, Sheriff? Is referring to you as “Pastor Sheriff” a direct frontal assault on your Christian faith? Have I made any direct assessment of your faith whatsoever? Any?
When I made the “Pastor Sheriff” comment, I was still at the stage where I knew nothing of you and had only had a few comments from citizens as I tried to search for information regarding Trevor Sanders. Things were a bit comical then in terms of the surface level information I was learning about your department. Oh, sir, they are devoid of any humor now.
I didn’t even know anything about you two weeks ago. I knew your name, because I tend to know the names of many sitting officials in our region.
Where are my attacks on the Sheriff’s Office and Grundy County? Where, sir?
If you want to know what the public temperature is regarding the GCSO, it’s about a thousand degrees right now. I had to field calls all week not only about you, but every official in your county. Your department has, as I’ve stated before, many “bigger fish” to fry than me.
Of course you need the people of Grundy County to feel I am attacking them. Instead, I wrote an entire article yesterday about Grundy County’s popular diners. The only attack that might be is a bit of elevated cholesterol, so please find where I’ve attacked the county and let me know.
(4) Questionable. Maybe you called me and I didn’t answer. That may be true. You have my home address, I assume you have a county-provided phone which can send text messages and obviously you can contact me on Facebook. You clearly know where I work, and can probably assume we have a front desk. Your allegation that I am not answering your attempts to communicate is inaccurate and, honestly, easily quashed.
In your memo to the press and public via your official channel declaring I didn’t pick up my phone, you forgot to include we were in the same room during the entire school board meeting. After that meeting you took to social media and declared I was “quiet as a mouse.” It’s hard to allege someone refuses to communicate with you when they spent two hours in the same room, within the past week, and I cannot seem to recall a tap on my shoulder. You apparently observed my behavior. I didn’t even know you were aware of my presence until screenshots started rolling in of you talking about it. The concept of me being inaccessible is invalid.
(5) What matter is there to resolve, Sheriff? I have no open records requests with your office which need addressing, you have disclaimed any responsibility for the arrest of Trevor Sanders and I aver, I notified you clearly that I am not his representative and I have made no official inquiry of any nature to your office since the open record I no longer need.
So what is the issue, sir? I don’t have a habit of hanging out in sheriff’s offices where I have no official business, and as of this writing there is no “matter” to “resolve”.
If you just need a pal, I’m here. But make no pretense that we have any unresolved issues which require resolution. Those are with your citizens, and their underground chatter indicates you’ll need a trailer shipment of brooms in your second term.
On the record, Sheriff, your bully pulpit attempt to take me out to the woodshed was unprofessional and a stark, further example of how Grundy County citizens should be frightfully aware their free speech is aggressively unwanted.
I found your public statement offensive, malicious, oppressive, wholly invalid and motivated by politics far more than truth. This appears to be a running theme among your citizen’s complaints, one only you can correct.
Sheriff, you have bigger problems than me.
Please tend to them, sir.
Jason Matthew Kibby (Walker)
Note: Reference to “bully pulpit” in the final paragraphs was not an assault on Sheriff Shrum’s personal beliefs as I utilized the word “pulpit”. The word “epistle” is not an exclusively religious term. If I ever have need to know what Sheriff Shrum’s religion is, which I will not, I will ask him. Which I will not.