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Former Principle Faces Teaching Licencse Revocation

April 07, 2000
By: Dan Shaw
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The former high school principal who put the woman appearing on Mothers Against Drunk Driving billboards in a wheelchair faced losing his teaching license Friday.

Mike Williams, a resident of Joplin, was the principal of Stover High School in Morgan County until he resigned shortly after an accident where he crossed into oncoming traffic on Highway 5, just south of Tipton.

The wreck, which occurred May 11, 1996, involved two other vehicles and resulted in the injury of seven people.

Severely injured, Phaedra Marriott was left paralyzed by surgery required to repair her ruptured aorta. Since then, Marriott allowed her image to be used on MADD billboards asking lawmakers to lower the drunk-driving standard from .10 to .08.

Williams had been drinking that night -- his blood alcohol level was recorded at .08.

On the stand, Williams admitted to making bad decisions when it came to alcohol, prompting Marriott to say, "He even admitted that he can't trust his own judgment. If you can't trust your judgment how can you be a proper authority for school children?"

Williams, however, says he would like a second chance.

"I believe in my heart God gave me a gift to educate children. I believe I have learned from my past mistakes," he said during testimony.

In 1997, Williams was convicted of three felony counts for assault resulting from the accident and spent 123 days in incarceration.

According to Missouri law, teachers convicted of felonies may have teaching licenses revoked by the State Board of Education.

The attorney for the defense, Kent Brown, said license revocation is generally based on a person's fitness to serve and is not intended as punishment. He argues Williams should therefore not lose his license because he is still a capable teacher.

"The issue here is the accident occurred years ago. What we'll be focusing on is if he is capable of being a teacher now," Brown said.

Since leaving jail Williams has been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and has become involved in a variety of community service organizations.

Marriott, however, was skeptical Williams has reformed, pointing out he has never directly apologized for causing the accident.

The reason for the silence, said Williams, was because his lawyers feared jeopardizing the case.

"They didn't want me to open old wounds on the victim's part," said Williams.

The recorded testimony from the hearing will now be sent to the Board of Education who will decide Williams's fate.

When asked how he plans to address his past with students if allowed to keep his license and return to teaching, Williams's responded, "Upfront, honest, and in a Christian fashion. I think kids have a tendency to learn from people who have made mistakes."