Don Cotton, former adjunct english professor at the university, has been banned from the campus of Huntington North High School after an incident at the school. Cotton was the former track and field and cross country coach at the high school.
According to an article from Indiana News Center, Cotton resigned from the Huntington school district Aug. 30. The article said that an incident happened on the high school’s grounds Aug. 29 and in early September, the district issued a no trespass order against Cotton. The no trespass order will continue to be enforced.
Tracey Shafer, superintendent of the Huntington County Community School Corporation, said Cotton submitted his resignation to the corporation’s board of trustees, but they voted to terminate his extracurricular contracts instead. Shafer said he “can’t really discuss the details” of the incident.
“We are finished with the matter and that’s all there is to it,” he said. “Any investigating we were doing was finalized when [Cotton's] contracts were terminated.”
Cotton taught two sections of Academic Writing and Research at the university. Cathy Trout, administrative assistant to the senior vice president of academic affairs, emailed students in the class Sept. 10 that the class was “canceled the rest of the week.” Students were later informed Sept. 12 by an email from Linda Urschel, Ph.D., chair of the english department, that he would no longer be teaching the class.
“Prof. Cotton will no longer be available to teach your class at 10 a.m. on MWF, so our department is working to cover your class so that you will not be inconvenienced,” she said in the email. “We are working very hard to make the transition work smoothly for everyone.”
Kathy Rhodes, director of clinical experiences, and Urschel now teach the course.
Del Doughty, Ph.D., interim senior vice president of academic affairs, said Cotton and the university agreed it would be best for him to step away.
“I got a call from the president who let me know that something was up,” he said. “I went to talk to Don the same and tried to gather some facts and the broader background. I talked to him again the next day, and that’s when we agreed on this solution.”
Doughty said Cotton had “personal problems to sort through.”
“We tried to come up with something that would protect everyone’s interests, including his,” he said. “As he sorts through his issue, it allows him to do that, and it allows us to keep some distance in respect to whatever is happening with the investigation at the high school. We thought that was the best solution … He agreed to cut ties with HU until things are resolved. It’s a complicated situation.”
President Sherilyn Emberton, Ed.D., had been notified by the Huntington school district that there had been an incident at the high school.
“There were no incidents on our campus,” she said. “All we know is what you know. We had no document or no official anything other than we had been notified by the school district … We never really knew anything officially.”
Doughty said he wasn’t sure if he could say anything “without violating privacy.”
“It’s just a matter of privacy laws,” he said. “Anything I know is just hearsay. The bottom line is that we’re trying to respect due process and people’s privacy and not rush to judgment on things. That’s sort of the guiding principle here.”
Freshman Scott Bryant was in Cotton’s class before he left the university.
“It’s really different switching classes in the middle of the semester,” he said. “It’s been stressful on a lot of us, but we’re finally getting used to it. Cotton was a really nice guy and relatable. Even some people who knew him personally are confused about what happened. Some people in our class were on his track team in high school, and they’re confused too.”
Cotton was inducted into the Indiana Track and Field and Cross Country Hall of Fame earlier this year. He is a 1967 alumnus from the university.
The Huntingtonian will continue to update the story.