Missouri board of educators may take weeks to decide whether to allow a former Smithville High School principal to keep his teaching license after allegations of pushing relationship boundaries with students.
Rudy Papenfuhs was forced to resign last October after the school district said he failed to maintain those boundaries. The question at stake is did Papenfuhs cross any lines with his students.
He testified on his own behalf during a hearing Tuesday morning in Jefferson City. None of his former students spoke on his behalf during the hearing that lasted several hours.
Smithville board members said, among other things, that Papenfuhs admitted to giving a student prescription skin ointment, taking students to non-school events without their parents including a Chiefs game, giving gifts such as game tickets and transportation to those games as incentives to keep up student attendance and good behavior and even putting a student on his mobile phone plan.
Papenfuhs, known affectionately as Pappy, says he was just trying to help in those situations. He said his actions never crossed a line, and he was acting with compassion toward students who needed his help.
"They are gray areas," he told state education board members. "It's not black and white."
He was given at least one warning from the school district that his actions were outside of administrator guidelines, but the educator of 30 years did not change his ways.
One student, who claims he was given prescription medication in 2014, said he asked Papenfuhs for it because he had a bump on his head, adding that it was given to him harmlessly.
"I owe him a lot and I will never be able to repay him for anything that he's done for me," former student Ty Hossman said. "Because he's don't it out of the kindness of his heart."
Last fall, his attorney said Papenfuhs admits to breaking the rules but not for ill intent.
"He never disputed that he violated board policy," attorney Mark Nasteff said. "But he was adamant to make sure the public understood that all the decisions he made was what he believed to be student centered and in the best interest of the district and students he unequivocally loved."
The Smithville School District and Papenfuhs reached an agreement last year, but then the state got involved. Officials say it could take up to three months for the state board to reach a decision.
"This has left a huge, huge scar on me and my family," Papenfuhs said Tuesday. "Do I deserve to have my certificate removed?"
He said he wants to keep his teaching license so he can become a principal in other districts and help students.
KCTV5's DeAnn Smith contributed to this report.
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