Cleveland school board to discuss Ringstaff on Friday following revelation of explicit messages

Cleveland school board to discuss Ringstaff on Friday following revelation of explicit messages

School officials originally claimed Twitter accounts were 'erroneously' impersonating Ringstaff

February 2nd, 2016 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Update: Wednesday, 9:49 a.m.

Cleveland City Schools Board of Education will have be a Special Called Public Board meeting on Friday, February 5, 2016 at 12:00 noon in the Administrative Office Building Board Room, 4300 Mouse Creek Road.

The agenda item will be the Director of Schools.

Dr. Martin Ringstaff

Dr. Martin Ringstaff

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

The explicit messages streamed in to Cleveland City Schools Director Martin Ringstaff's phone.

"I'll be wearing a rain coat," a woman wrote in a private Facebook message. "You will know there is nothing underneath."

"It would be fun," Ringstaff responded, telling the woman to prepare for sex in a parking lot.

It is unclear exactly when Ringstaff and the unidentified woman sent those messages to each other. But they circulated on the Internet after someone posted them Sunday in a Twitter account. In the messages, Ringstaff tells the woman her breasts are "excellent," explains specific sexual acts he wants to perform on her and sends her a picture of his penis.

"You shall erase," he wrote, before sharing the image. "I am so not believing we are here."

"Me too!" the woman wrote back. "And we are both deleting it all, right?"

On Monday night, after first trying to get the Twitter account shut down, Ringstaff said in a statement that he did in fact send explicit messages to the woman, who is not his wife.

"I admit to having made previous mistakes in my personal life," he wrote. "My wife, Heather, and I have worked through these issues and are committed to our family and moving past my mistakes. With the support of the Cleveland City Schools Board of Education, I am dedicated to serving the students of Cleveland."

Ringstaff did not return multiple calls Tuesday seeking comment on who he thinks would create a social media account to reveal his sexually explicit text messages. School board Chairwoman Dawn Robinson and Vice Chairman Murl Dirksen also did not return multiple calls seeking comment.

But a statement from the school system's public relations department says Robinson, Dirksen and the five other elected officials stand behind their director.

"The Cleveland City School Board of Education members are in unanimous agreement that we support and respect Dr. Martin Ringstaff and his family," the statement reads. "They are valuable to our community. Martin has done above and beyond what he said he would do for Cleveland City Schools."

On Monday morning, the school system's public relations department had sent out a different statement, attacking the legitimacy of the Twitter account, as well as a second account. Instead of addressing the content of the messages that someone leaked on the Internet, the statement accused the anonymous operators of the accounts of "erroneously" impersonating Ringstaff.

"The accounts have been reported to the Cleveland Police Department," according to the statement released Monday morning. "They are investigating and working with Twitter to shut down the malicious accounts."

According to a Cleveland police incident report, Ringstaff called a school resource officer Monday morning to complain about the accounts. Later in the evening, Detective Daniel Gibbs contacted Ringstaff, but the schools director no longer wanted to pursue a criminal investigation "for the sake of his wife."

Ringstaff admitted the messages came from him. He said he sent them more than a year ago.

Ringstaff asked Gibbs if it were even possible to charge someone with a crime for leaking his messages, the report states. Gibbs told him that depends in part on who he sent the messages to. Ringstaff declined to disclose the woman's identity.

Ringstaff has served as the Cleveland City Schools director since March 2011. In April 2013, the school board voted to extend his contract through June 2017, giving him an annual salary of $130,000. In 2014, the Tennessee Association of School Superintendents named Ringstaff the Southeast Tennessee Superintendent of the Year.

In a private message to the Times Free Press, the anonymous person operating one account said the leaked messages came from the husband of the woman who had been exchanging the messages with Ringstaff. According to messages between the husband and the account operator, the husband forwarded the messages because he wanted to expose "the immoral scumbag."

"[My wife] was into it for a few months because I was away," the husband wrote. "When I came back and found this, she wasn't into it anymore."

On Wednesday morning, Dawn Robinson, chairman of the Board of Education for Cleveland City Schools, announced a specially called public board meeting on Friday, Feb. 5 at noon to discuss the director of schools. 

Robinson offered no further comment "on the advice of our attorney."

Robinson gave no indication whether the board still stood behind Ringstaff. 

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6476.


Updated Feb. 2 at 11:55 p.m.


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