The parents of five Shafer Middle School students have been granted orders of protection against one of the school’s teachers amid allegations that the teacher used explicit sexual language and gestures around the students who say they are now afraid of him.
Robert Ring, who has taught 6th grade social studies at the Gallatin school since 2013, was suspended without pay effective May 17 for allegations of inappropriate contact with a student(s), according to a letter in his personnel file.
The suspension will remain in effect until the conclusion of an investigation by law enforcement, the Department of Children’s Services and Sumner County Schools, according to the letter.
Sumner County Schools Spokesperson Jeremy Johnson said that Ring was suspended as soon as the school system was made aware of the allegations against him and will remain suspended until the criminal investigation is complete.
“Once they complete their investigation, we’ll review the results and make a determination about his status at that time,” said Johnson.
The Sumner County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that office is investigating Ring, but declined to comment further. No charges have been filed against the teacher.
On Monday, Judge Mike Carter granted orders of protection to the parents of five minor children. Three of the petitioners checked a box that said the respondent had stalked them. All five checked a box that said the respondent sexually assaulted them. Three petitioners checked a box that said the respondent was verbally aggressive and used strong sexual language. Ring is listed as the respondent on all of the petitions.
Three of the petitions were filed in Sumner County General Sessions Court on May 20. Two more were filed on May 24. Each asks that the teacher not be allowed to have contact with his or her child and that Ring be ordered to stay away from the student’s home, workplace and other areas the child may be.
Ring, 49, appeared in court June 3 with attorney John Pellegrin. The petitioners also appeared in court.
Pellegrin told Judge Carter that Ring wouldn’t contest the petitions ‘for the purposes of today.’
One by one, the parents were called to approach the judge.
“In other words, they are going to let your child have this order of protection,” Carter told the first parent.
“What that means [is] he’s letting you have your order but there’s been no proof,” Carter told the first parent. “I’ve heard nothing, so the truthfulness of the allegations, I make no determination. It’s not unusual for that to happen.”
Ring was ordered to have no contact with each petitioner and to stay away from the petitioners’ homes and workplaces, if applicable. He was also ordered to stay away from the Gallatin Skate Park.
Carter said the order is good for one year and expires on June 3, 2020.
“It can be extended, but it has to be based on some new facts,” he said. “If something does happen, it can be extended for five years.”
Although little was said in open court on Monday, the petitions for the orders of protection detail several instances in which the five male students say Ring acted inappropriately in front of them.
“The sexual abuse started with Ring trying to become familiar with him by separating him and his friends with conversation in the lunchroom and classroom,” wrote one parent. “Ring would tell other teachers and students to leave them in the lunchroom with him and then proceed to have these sexual conversations with them. Ring asked them if their parents checked their phones and if they had trackers on them. Ring talked to them about where they rode their bikes, the skate park, where they lived. In some of the first conversations, Ring told them that, ‘the conversation does not leave this room,’ and that he could get in trouble for texting them.”
All of the inappropriate conduct is alleged to have occurred in April and May of this year, according to the petitions for orders of protection.
Another parent describes several inappropriate conversations Ring had with students, as well as inappropriate gestures he made while in the class room. The parent also says that Ring texted a student to come over to his house “to pull weeds and hang out” adding that his wife and kids wouldn’t be home.
“– is so scared of this man,” writes the parent. “He is worried that Robert Ring is going to try and take or find him.”
“On at least two occasions Mr. Ring pulled my son and a few of his friends out of [class] to speak to the boys about sex,” wrote a third parent. “During that time he would graphically speak on sexual activity.”
Another parent alleges that Ring encouraged the boys to drink and use drugs and to call him to come get them without telling their parents.
The parent also said that a child witnessed Ring thrust himself against a student at his locker while “helping” unjam the door.
“At this time, my son is scared for himself and his friends that Mr. Ring knows where they live and that he is free to walk the streets,” the parent wrote. “There is plenty more that I could say but I am having a difficult time writing this. Until this man is arrested I would like to ask the court to provide this security to the boys so they can feel safe.”
In an email this week, Pellegrin said he and his client declined to comment on the allegations.
According to his personnel file, Ring was hired by Sumner County Schools in 2007 and was granted tenure as a teacher in the school system in 2010.
He has also taught at Benny Bills Elementary and Union Elementary schools.
Before he was hired by Sumner County Schools, Ring taught middle school social studies and math at St. John Vianney in Gallatin from 2004-2007. Prior to that, he taught for a year at Amqui Elementary School in Nashville and for three years at Sumner Academy in Gallatin.
Ring received a bachelor of arts degree from The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina in 1992 and served for four years in the U.S. Armed Forces, according to his file. He then obtained his master’s degree in elementary education from Middle Tennessee State University in 1999.
His file shows no disciplinary measures save for a reprimand letter from Union Elementary School in 2011 for not filing the proper bookkeeping documentation in four out of 24 times he remitted money to the school.