A day after the Red Lodge School Board voted not to renew the contract of a popular middle school teacher without revealing what lead to the decision, the teacher spoke out to MTN News.
Steven Morris told Q2 News Director Keagan Harsha during an interview Friday that he lost his teaching job after being told he had threatened a student. Morris, who spent two decades as a U.S. Marine before becoming a teacher, said he knows nothing about the alleged incident that he says he is accused of.
"I have thousands of student engagements on a daily basis—depending on student-teacher ratio— and that’s not to make an excuse. I wish I did recall it. I wish I could speak to it," he said.
Morris is in his third year of teaching social studies at Roosevelt Middle School in Red Lodge. He says things had been going well until about 30 days ago.
"I received my last evaluation on Dec. 15, and it was glowing. Then on Jan. 5, I was placed on administrative leave with pay by Red Lodge School District because of allegations that I verbally threatened a student. As I stated before, I’ve had 30 days to recall that incident. I do not," he says.
Morris also admitted that his performance as a teacher in the school district had come under scrutiny last school year.
"I was notified that I was placed on a plan of improvement because of written complaints submitted to the district by my colleagues at the middle school. I have not seen those complaints. I couldn’t tell you who they were made by and I didn’t have opportunity to respond,” he says.
Morris says the thing that troubles him the most is that the student wouldn’t have felt comfortable approaching him.
He declined to release any documents related to his employment as a teacher in Red Lodge without prior approval from the district.
Morris says it was heartwarming to see the support he was given by the community as hundreds of people showed up to support him at Thursday's board meeting.
“In my opinion, yesterday Red Lodge represented both its best and its worst simultaneously. An awakening of the community. People took vacation days to be there yesterday,” he says.
As for his future, Morris says he is considering resigning before the school year ends.
"I'm not going to speculate as to why the board made the decision that they did, the information that they were privy to or not. I stand by my conduct and my character. That is a nonnegotiable position for me," he said.
Watch the full interview below: