Fired coach Teli White loses second appeal after grade-changing accusations

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County School Board voted 7-1 Wednesday afternoon to uphold its previous decision to fire former Melrose High School football coach Teli White.

White was fired in December 2017 after a scathing report from an independent auditor looking into grade-changing allegations at Trezevant High School, where White previously coached.

White was initially suspended for five days from his post at Trezevant in 2016 after the allegations first surfaced.

He was later reinstated, and then took a job at Melrose.

White lost a previous appeal in March before an "impartial hearing officer."

The 2017 audit revealed 53 Trezevant students graduated during a four-year period without actually earning their diplomas after hundreds of grades were changed from failing to passing.

The district accused White of either knowing of the grade-changing or being involved in it.

“I was winning in life for those children, and they didn’t need me to change no grades so they could win in life," White said.

White's attorney, Darrell O'Neal, argued before the board Wednesday that two of the school board members had already made up their minds before Wednesday's one-hour hearing.

He also said White didn't violate school policy by having student transcripts on his computer and said White shouldn't be disciplined twice for the same alleged offense -- which he said the suspension and firing amounted to.

“There is no policy that allows the school district to discipline somebody twice for the same conduct," O'Neal said.

The district's counsel argued that White wasn't completely truthful during the course of its investigation. Namely, that White had more transcripts on his computer than he had previously revealed.

"A continual cover-up when you have a duty to disclose – that’s unethical," said the district's attorney Christopher Campbell.

White exchanged hugs and handshakes with dozens of supporters after the board's decision, including with a former player.

"This dude is a man of honor. He won’t lie to you and he won’t lie for you," said former Trezevant football player Jamal Jones.

Mike Kernell was the only school board member to vote to reinstate White. He said he favored suspension and unsuccessfully made a motion to give White credit for the time he's already been off the job.

"There was no evidence that he had actually done anything with the grades and there was no evidence that he had conspired or colluded to do something with the grades," Kernell said.

White's attorney said he now plans to take his case to Chancery Court.

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