DICKSON — The Carter County and Murray County Sheriff's Departments have begun a dual criminal investigation into allegations of misconduct regarding a former teacher at Dickson Public Schools.
Carter County Sheriff Ken Grace said the department began receiving complaints Thursday that former teacher Stephenie Ringwald provided alcohol to students. He said the department is also investigating rumors of sexual misconduct that allegedly took place between Ringwald and students.
"The investigation started Thursday and we have been taking statements from victims and witnesses," Grace said. "They are serious allegations and when there are children involved, we are going to investigate it thoroughly. Our job is to protect people, especially the children."
Deputy Donny Raley said the original complaints were regarding the allegations of providing alcohol and the allegations of sexual misconduct have come to light through the course of the investigation.
"We have several more interviews to conduct," Raley said. "We are at the preliminary stages of the investigation."
Grace also said the Murray County Sheriff's Department is conducting its own investigation as Ringwald lives within that county.
Ringwald's resigned from her position as middle school English teacher and cheerleading coach in a written statement Aug. 20. The resignation was accepted by the school's board of education during a special meeting Aug. 26. In her statement, Ringwald said, "I would like to inform you that I am resigning my position at Dickson Public Schools effective immediately. Thank you for the opportunities that you have provided me over the past ten years."
In an interview with The Ardmoreite Friday morning, Ringwald said she resigned because of an incident in the classroom. In an effort to protect students' right to privacy, there was no elaboration. Ringwald was asked if she was aware if any complaints by parents had been made about her. She said anyone in education receives complaints.
"It goes with the job," she said.
When asked if she was aware of any complaints to the school by parents regarding her providing alcohol to students, she said no.
Superintendent Sherry Howe, who is also Ringwald's mother, addressed rumors circulating within the community.
"The rumors are inaccurate," she said. "I don't know what you are hearing, but they are inaccurate."
Howe was asked specifically about the rumor regarding Ringwald providing alcohol to students. Howe said those complaints would have gone to principal Rex Trent, who was Ringwald's principal and conducted Ringwald's evaluations.
"If anyone provided alcohol to a student, it would not be tolerated," Howe said. "It's a complete lie."
Attempts to reach Howe regarding the criminal investigation and allegations of sexual misconduct with students were unsuccessful.