'I'm innocent': Choir director says 'mob mentality' tarnished his good name

GERMANTOWN, TN (WMC) - A former teacher at Houston High School is speaking up to defend himself against accusations he says are untrue.

Dr. William Rayburn was an award-winning choir director at the Germantown high school. He was fired May 14 following accusations that he inappropriately kissed and touched students.

Rayburn and his attorney, Michael Gaines, say the accusations and subsequent firing are part of a witch hunt launched by a Germantown Municipal School District administrator with an ax to grind against Rayburn.

"I'm innocent. I want everyone to hear my side of the story, which is innocence. I have an account of everything they have against me," Rayburn said.

Rayburn said a mob mentality led to the amount of allegations against him. He claims each story keeps getting older, with many students rehashing the same things against him as complaints.

He noted the competitiveness of the choir group at the school, saying it played a role in the accusations against him. He said students and parents who were not happy about being passed over for solos or prominent roles plotted against him and manufactured these allegations.

"I describe this entire thing as a grudge," Rayburn said.

He called members of the booster club "friends," but that some of them decided to spearhead the smear effort against him. He said the choir program was very competitive, and many parents and students were upset at the amount of solos the kids were receiving within the concerts--noting that it was his obligation to pick the best for solos.

He said the booster club's purpose is to support the choir, not to make decisions like who performs solos.

Rayburn said he had no issues at other schools he taught and never received other complaints.

Rayburn said the allegations of him hugging students and kissing them on the forehead were blown out of proportion and he never had a complaint about the actions in the previous decades he's been teaching. He said students would initiate hugs with him when they were feeling stressed or having a bad day.

He said he would occasionally kiss students on the forehead when they were distressed and he was acting as a "father-like figure." He'd also kissed their foreheads if they went above expectations in their work and he felt proud of them.

Rayburn said the kisses happened infrequently, about 10 times per year and were "rewards for certain events."

He also explained once incident where he touched a female student on the rear.

Rayburn said the slap on the rear happened in a "locker room" setting at a concert. The concert was not at Houston High School. In fact, Rayburn was part of the cast--along with students and older people unaffiliated with the school. Rayburn said he had no leadership role in the concert.

He said the men in the concert had previously been horsing around in the locker room. He saw someone who he thought was part of that, but that person turned out to be one of Rayburn's female students.

Rayburn said he was shocked when he realized who the person was that he'd slapped on the rear. He said he profusely apologized and felt completely embarrassed about what happened. He said the people who saw the incident, including the female student, laughed about what happened.

Rayburn described another incident where a witness said he told a student who had a breast reduction surgery, "I like what you did there."

Rayburn said unequivocally that he never said those words. He said that he asked the student how she was feeling after her surgery and did not make any such crude comment.

Before Rayburn was fired, he says he sent a 12-page rebuttal to the school board for them to have as evidence before voting on his fate.

He said he only knows of one person other than the accusers that the school board talked to. He said that person was asked vague questions about Rayburn, not about the incidents in question.

Rayburn's job reviews are filled with perfect scores. He was voted by his own peers to become choir director. He said the school board should explain why, if he was a problem teacher, there were never any reported instances in his previous decades of teaching at various schools.

He said he's most surprised that no one spoke up with any accusations for years. He was disappointed that he had to gather witnesses from seven years ago. He again called the accusations a "witch hunt."

When asked if he wanted his job back, Rayburn said he was not sure. However he did indicate that he was interested in continuing his teaching career.

"I want to teach again. That is my calling, and that's what I want to do," he said.

When asked if he would act differently if given another teaching job, Rayburn responded affirmatively.

"Yes. I will do things differently. There's no doubt about it."

He said society has changed and he did not adapt his teaching methods to match these things, and they in today's society, he now knows that kissing a student, even on the forehead, would never be deemed appropriate by some.

He explained that teaching is an ever-evolving profession. He said he took lessons he learned every single day and used them to improve his demeanor and teaching ability. He said he would treat this instance in the same manner as other lessons he learned while teaching every day.

Most of all, Rayburn said he's never received due process and wants to clear his name with a fully drawn out investigation.

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