East Forsyth Student’s Recording Brings Threats

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The case of an East Forsyth student whose family made public a conversation he recorded that contains cursing and threats from a teacher and the school’s police officer has prompted a huge outpouring of comments and a vigorous debate over how the situation was handled.

Mike Muse, a teacher and coach at East, and James Deeney, the school’s resource officer, confronted the boy because Dillon Tschrnko, 15, had raised questions over the number of text messages both men were sending to a 16-year-old female student.

Tschrnko said Thursday that he had received threats from other students on his Facebook page Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. After the confrontation Jan. 19, his parents enrolled him in a different high school. Tschrnko said he did not go to school Thursday.

The conversation, in which Muse threatens to financially ruin the boy’s family, happened in the high school cafeteria. Tschrnko recorded the confrontation — which lasted more than an hour and included profanities and other threats — on his cellphone.

In the recording, Muse tells Tschrnko that he does not “take kindly” to a student spreading false rumors about him, while Tschrnko maintains that he only said the heavy texting was “weird.”

Muse said him speaking about the texts “ain’t like it’s a little teenage drama thing,” and tells Tschrnko that teachers can lose their jobs and their families because of rumors. Muse maintains that his texts to the female student were only about fatherly advice and to remind her to study.

Many people posted responses on the Journal’s Facebook page. Some believe Muse, who coaches at East Forsyth and Mount Tabor high schools, and whose family has been involved in the school system and in high school sports for decades, was unfairly provoked and that his anger was understandable.

Others say he and Deeney verbally abused Tschrnko, and that under no circumstances should a teacher or police officer curse or intimidate any student.

The Kernersville Police Department, which employs Deeney, is reviewing the recording of the confrontation, Police Chief Ken Gamble said Thursday. Gamble said he would not permit Deeney to comment.

“What I can tell at this point is, the matter is under review,” Gamble said. “I’m not going to discuss the specifics.”

The incident has also raised questions about whether and how often teachers and coaches should text students.

The school system has no policy on texting between teachers and students. Theo Helm, spokesman for the school district, said texting is “discouraged, but not prohibited.”

Gamble said the Kernersville Police Department has no policy on whether school resource officers should text students. He said all officers are expected to interact with the public — including students — in a professional manner.

“It’s just basically common sense,” Gamble said. “You talk to people how you want to be spoken to.”

Gamble said the Kernersville Police Department investigated the text messages between the two men and the girl. Gamble said that investigation is complete and neither Deeney nor Muse will be charged.

Helm said Muse’s cellphone was not issued by the school system, which means the district does not have access to the texts between Muse and the girl.

“And we do not have subpoena power,” Helm said. “We can’t demand to see somebody’s private phone calls. If it’s a school system phone like mine, I would have to hand it over. But somebody’s private, personal phone, we don’t have access to.”

Muse said Wednesday that he had apologized to Tschrnko and his parents. But on Thursday, Klaus Tschrnko, the student’s father, said neither he nor his son had received an apology from Muse.

Klaus and Marsha Tschrnko took the recording to East Forsyth High School Principal Patricia Gainey on Jan. 20 — the day after the confrontation — and asked to speak with Muse and Deeney.

Klaus Tschrnko said that when he confronted Muse that day, Muse played down the incident.

“He did not even admit that the whole thing lasted an hour; he said it lasted for 10 or 12 minutes,” Klaus Tschrnko said. He said Muse told him that if he had cursed Dillon Tschrnko, he would apologize, but he did not admit to anything.

Muse, who teaches physical education and health at East, could not be reached for further comment on the case Thursday. He said Wednesday night that he had been disciplined over the confrontation but declined to say what that disciplinary action entailed.

Muse and Deeney were at work Thursday, the day after the recording was made public.

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education has the final say on whether and how to discipline Muse. That board next meets Feb. 13.

NOTE: This article was written by Laura Graff and originally appeared in The Winston-Salem Journal.