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Tennessee District Settles With Parents In Child Abuse Lawsuit After Teacher Allegedly Mistreated Special Ed Students For Years

Image Credit: Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office & Google Earth

The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –

A Tennessee school district has settled with parents in a child abuse lawsuit. Four special education students are to receive $70 thousand each to be set aside for them after Kingsport City Schools (KCS) settled a federal lawsuit for $280 thousand on December 7th, 2023.

According to City Attorney Bart Rowlett, the city’s insurance carrier is to bear the cost of the settlement and the court costs involved.

The teacher who allegedly injured the children is facing 20 felony charges from a 2023 Sullivan County grand jury indictment, and if convicted, will see prison time.

In the now dismissed civil suit, KCS and three high level employees were accused of mishandling abuse suspicions against Michelle Carpenter who denies doing anything wrong. 

According to the Order of Dismissal and Judgment Approving Minor Settlement, former Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse, former Johnson Elementary School Principal Stacy Edwards and Chief Human Resources Officer Jennifer Guthrie all denied any wrongdoing in the case.

The lawsuit alleged that the defendants broke federal law and sought injunctive relief which included the training of personnel in child abuse reporting with regard to disabled students.

The dismissal of the civil suit does not affect Carpenter’s criminal case and her next court date will take place on January 12th, 2024 in Blountville.

She is accused of the mistreatment of special education students in her pre-kindergarten class which involved physical abuse. The 10 Class D felony charges of abuse – which includes inflicting bruising – and the 10 Class E felonies for adversely affecting a child’s welfare means Carpenter could see a significant length of incarceration for the alleged abuse of autistic children who were 3 to 4 years old at the time.

Sullivan County’s grand jury’s indictment of Carpenter on 20 counts of child abuse against 10 students at Andrew Johnson Elementary School came after she had already been suspended due to accusations of abuse at the Palmer Early Learning Center.

The civil suit alleged that Carpenter had a history of abuse and neglect that had been left virtually unchecked for years.

The lawsuit stated, “Witnessed by scores of personnel, across multiple years, multiple grades and against multiple pre-school children with special needs, KCS repeatedly failed to report Carpenter to authorities, gave intentionally misleading information to parents and gave ‘discipline’ so weak that it ensured a continuation of Carpenter’s abuse and neglect.”

After reports of abuse and neglect in 2019 – 2020, which included grabbing and jerking the children and swinging one by the armpits, Carpenter received a suspension from KCS that lasted 2 days but her actions were not reported to Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Even after multiple letters to KCS regarding Tennessee law and their duty to report to DCS, the school system again merely suspended Carpenter for three days and planned to move her to another position.

About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. 

You can reach Paula at

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