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Tannahill resigns from HHS

A special School Board meeting early Friday morning was called to terminate Hastings High School English teacher Bryce Tannahill, but became a meeting in which the board accepted Tannahill's resignation.

District Supt. Tim Collins, Hastings High School Principal Mike Johnson and school district legal counsel met Thursday with Tannahill and his counsel. The meeting resulted in the board's acceptance of Tannahill's resignation Friday morning.

The board met for about a half hour in closed session Friday morning to discuss the results of a school district investigation, instigated by December 2008 charges against Tannahill in Washington County. The board could have chosen to vote for termination; instead they accepted Tannahill's resignation.

"The outcome and decision is best for everyone involved," Collins said.

Tannahill was charged late last year in an incident in which a Cottage Grove woman and her fiancé said Tannahill was found peering into her windows as they returned to her house. The woman identified Tannahill as the man who had peered into her windows on two other occasions, beginning in 2007.

According to the report, in 2007, she had "just come home from a shift at work and was changing her work shirt, taking off her bra and putting on a yellow tank top. When she looked up, she saw a male party peering into the window."

Tannahill was charged with one gross misdemeanor charge of harassment - stalk/follow/pursue; one gross misdemeanor charge of harassment - return to property - no claim/right/consent; one gross misdemeanor charge interfere with privacy - enter home/stare/peep in window; and one misdemeanor charge of tamper with motor vehicle/enter without owner permission. The woman and her fiancé found the dome light on in her car when they arrived home. Police found the woman's sunglasses on the ground outside the car, and the woman said it appeared her make-up bag had been gone through, according to the report.

An agreement was reached at a pre-trial hearing in June. Tannahill was found innocent on all pending charges, entering a Alford plea, withholding of adjudication, on the tampering with a motor vehicle charge. The Alford plea is not a guilty plea, but an admission there is enough proof that he could be found guilty if the matter came before the court. Nothing was put on his record.

But it wasn't Tannahill's only brush with the law in the last year.

He was arrested Aug. 17, 2008, in Prescott, Wis. According to a Prescott Police report, two witnesses saw a male throw a beer bottle at and break a window at Papa Tronnier's Restaurant and then followed him down the street after calling police. The male was eventually identified as Tannahill.

"I made contact with the male and explained why I was there," Officer Mark Schulz wrote in his report of the incident. "I could see immediately that the male was intoxicated. His eyes were almost pure red. I could barely see any pupil color. I could also smell a strong odor of an intoxicant, and he was swaying back and forth."

Tannahill, according to the report, told the officer he "did not break anything," despite the witnesses being present.

The officer, at one time, felt he was going to be attacked.

"I then informed him that I would be placing him under arrest for damage to property," Schultz wrote in the report. "I asked him to turn around and put his hands behind his back. He looked down at the ground and just stood there twitching his fingers. I felt at this point he may be getting angry, so I asked him again to turn around and put his hands behind his back, but I did so with a calm and relaxed voice. He then snapped his head toward me and just stared at me. He continued to twitch his fingers and hands now. For the first time in my law enforcement career I felt like I was about to be attacked. I felt the suspect was sizing me up for an attack.

"I stepped back one step, removed my ECD from its holster and pointed it at him. I then placed the red dot on his chest and told him, 'You need to put your hands behind your back and cooperate with me, or I will activate my ECD.' After three to five seconds, he turned around and placed his hands behind his back. I then placed him in restraints and placed him in the squad car."

Tannahill, the officer said in his report, was uncooperative, at one point, saying, "You have made a huge mistake doing this to me." Based on Tannahill's refusal to cooperate with the most basic of questions, his seemingly intoxicated state and his anger, the officer decided to take him to the jail where he could attempt to get a ride home from a responsible adult.

"I felt if I just released him into the downtown area," the officer wrote, "he would break something else or start a fight." The incident was scheduled for trial Feb. 3, 2009. Tannahhill opted not to go to trial in municipal court, which was scheduled for Feb. 3, 2009, instead paying the ticket and paying restitution for the broken window.

Because the School Board meeting Friday didn't result in termination, Collins said he couldn't share whether the incident in Wisconsin was part of the investigation, nor would he say what was, citing data privacy.

"I can't get into specifics because it's not a termination, Collins said. "But what it boils down to is you investigate internally, and as you're talking to employees and students, they give you others to visit with. So, you go through the investigation and listen to their statements, and then you sit back and make a decision about what's best for the school district - and the employee."

In open meeting, the vote to accept the resignation was 5 to 0. Board members Amy Peltier and Teresa Moes weren't at the meeting and couldn't vote. Peltier sat in on the closed meeting by phone from Colorado where she's vacationing and told the board when the board returned to the open session that if she could vote, it would also be for accepting Tannahill's resignation. Collins said he had talked to Moes, and she had told him the same thing.

HHS principal Mike Johnson, who had been involved with the investigation and who was at the meeting Friday, said the outcome was a good one.

"As principal and responsible for the school, I think this was a good decision for the students, staff and Bryce," he said.

Tannahill's teaching license may be in jeopardy. By law, copies of investigation by the School District must be sent to the Minnesota Department of Education state board of teaching, the agency responsible for licensing teachers.