What a difference a year makes. Last year, former House Speaker Beth Harwell was calling on state representative David Byrd to resign amid allegations he had improper sexual relationships with high school students he had coached. Now, new House Speaker Glen Casada has appointed Byrd to Chair the House Education Administration Subcommittee.
The Tennessean has more:
Despite calls from protesters — and the previous House speaker — for his resignation, a state lawmaker accused of inappropriate sexual conduct against multiple teens has been named chairman of an education subcommittee.
Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, has been assigned by newly-elected House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, to lead the education administration subcommittee.
The announcement came Thursday when committees were assigned on the floor of the House, immediately following required sexual harassment training.
As the Tennessean story notes, Byrd was 28 and a basketball coach when he is accused of having inappropriate sexual conduct with two players who were then 15 and one who was 16. Despite Byrd’s denial of wrongdoing, a recorded phone call provided to Nashville’s WSMV-TV has Byrd apologizing to one of the women accusing him of misconduct.
The story also notes that in addition to Harwell, Lt. Governor Randy McNally called on Byrd to resign last year. Instead, Glen Casada has elevated Byrd to a key leadership role overseeing our state’s education policy.
Casada’s indifference to Byrd’s misconduct should come as no surprise to legislative observers. After all, Casada was well-known as mentor and adviser to former State Rep. Jeremy Durham, the first Tennessee House member ever to be expelled from the body. Durham was expelled after multiple credible allegations of sexual misconduct that took place during his short time in office.
Despite his penchant for enabling sex offenders, Casada received 75 votes in the Speaker’s race, including the support of Democrats Johnny Shaw, John Mark Windle, and John DeBerry. Republican Bob Ramsey was absent, but all other Republicans voted in favor of Casada. DeBerry, like Casada, is a long-time supporter of school vouchers – a priority apparently more important to him than protecting children from sexual predators. While Windle received a committee chairmanship, there’s no clear explanation for why Shaw supported Casada over Democrat Karen Camper.
Now, instead of being returned home to repent of his sins, Byrd will remain in the House and be a key player in state education issues.
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