ANDERSON — Supporters of a family that was insulted by a Facebook post by an Anderson Community Schools employee following the death of their son said they were surprised and dismayed by the action taken by the district’s board of trustees.
ACS Superintendent Timothy Smith announced on Tuesday, after demands from the audience to know what discipline had been handed down to Eastside Elementary School speech pathologist Sharon Turner, that she had received a two-week unpaid suspension that already has been served. She has also been banned from the district’s social media for a year.
“It’s a two-week vacation, paid or unpaid, a slap on the wrist essentially,” said Ami Crusmire. “Basically, they made their decision before all this happened.”
She is the mother of Anderson High School sophomore Levi B. Crusmire II, who died Aug. 7 in an all-terrain vehicle crash near his home in the 10600 block of County Road North 200 West.
Turner, who was not at the board meeting, wrote a post a couple of weeks later on the business Facebook page of Levi’s father, Levi Crusmire Sr., that said, “Everybody grieves differently I guess. We are more traditional and less white trash.” The post was deleted within a day.
Smith initially was reluctant to discipline Turner, saying she was shielded by her First Amendment rights. However, Smith said that after an investigation, district officials concluded she should face consequences.
“Through our investigation, we determined the action does not rise to the level of immediate termination,” he said.
However, Ami Crusmire and several of the dozens of family members and friends, some wearing red and some wearing light green T-shirts in honor of Levi, descended on the ACS board and demanded that Turner be fired. In anticipation of the large number of people, district officials arranged for a larger than usual law enforcement presence.
“I feel in her position, she should not have made that comment. She should be held to a higher standard,” she said. “Sharon Turner will be known as Public Enemy No. 1 in my eyes.”
Ami Crusmire, who wiped away tears as supporters spoke, said what she finds most inexcusable is Turner has made no attempt to apologize.
“She has not reached out to me, and I am not hard to find. We all have social media, now,” she said.
The elder Levi Crusmire told the board that as a business owner, if any of his employees would have done what Turner did, he would fire them. He said because she called the family “white trash,” it was hate speech but wasn’t treated that way because they are the same race.
“If we hold out little kids to this standard, surely our teachers should be held to a higher standard,” he said. “For my family to go through this, this woman should not be around children. She’s taken her mask off in public. How many kids has she bullied in her class?”
Carrie Shaw, best friend of Ami Crusmire, said anyone could accidentally say the wrong thing, but most people would apologize.
“Own up to it and apologize. Try to make it right,” she said. “She would expect her students to apologize.”
Several in the audience, including Shaw, expressed doubt that Turner served any punishment at all, saying there wasn’t really enough time to conduct an investigation and have her serve the suspension.
As the board continued with the business portion of the meeting, supporter Angie Finney overtalked the proceedings.
“Time to note. Make sure you get out and vote and know who they are,” she told the crowd.