Italy Police Chief Scott Peters announced weeks ago on Facebook that at least 24 Italy High School students had signed up for five criminal justice courses he was going to teach this school year. The post received over 100 'likes' and several comments expressing enthusiasm.
"Sir! My freshman daughter is beyond thrilled with being in this class!" wrote Marcos N Kimberly Garza two weeks ago. "Thank you for supporting our youth. We cannot wait for her excitement and the stories she brings home. #futurelawyerdaughter."
As students returned to school on Monday, however, the classes were yanked from the syllabus.
"The city hasn't confirmed yet for sure that he is allowed to teach the course," Italy Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Michelle Schwind said. "We want him to teach it and thought we would be able to have him do it. … The mayor would have to verify if he has been approved to teach it. I am just waiting for the verdict."
The verdict, according to Peters, is that city officials cited a policy prohibiting employees from obtaining outside employment and called into question whether he would be able to perform as chief and teach at the same time effectively.
The Daily Light obtained a copy of the Personnel Policies handbook. Chapter 2.03 states, "Employees may not engage in any outside employment, activity or enterprise determined by the city secretary or department head: (a) to be inconsistent or incompatible with employment with the city of Italy; or (b) to affect the employee's job performance adversely."
"The city council said it would affect my performance. They brought up a rule. I have to live by the rule," said Peters, who has been the police chief since Sept. 2018. "The previous mayor and I worked on this for about a year, and finally got it off the ground — and then I was told I couldn't do it."
Although Peters believes he is the right man for the classroom, boasting an impressive resume of more than three decades worth of experience in law enforcement and years of teaching experience at the college level, the city is standing by the decision, which was ultimately made by Mayor Bryant Cockran, who has been in office since May.
"When I found out about it, I told him almost a month ago, 'Let's get city council approval,' and it was never brought before city council," City Administrator Shawn Holden said. "And, now school started, so the mayor decided, 'No, he don't need to teach the class. We got issues in the city that he needs to be here working on.' That's in our personnel policy, so that's what the mayor went with."
"He just made the decision that the best interest of Italy is for the chief to be here dealing with Italy issues," Holden added.
While Schwind waits for an official word from city leaders, she is hoping the courses may at least be provided in another capacity.
"It may be offered online with support from our new school resource officer," Schwind said. "It would be a great improvement to have a veteran officer with a master's degree be able to teach our students."
Peters obtained a Master of Science degree in criminal justice and political science from the University of North Texas in 2003.
Holden said the district may proceed with the courses, but the chief would not be involved at all — in person or online. He said he spoke with the principal of the high school.
"I'm going to call them back today [Tuesday] and let them know that, 'No he won't be there,' and they can find a different way to teach the class," Holden affirmed.