SCHS Cat Case Makes Way to County Commission Meeting

The teacher at the center of the Stephens County High School cat castration controversy receives a show of support from a number of residents at Tuesday’s Stephens County Commission meeting.

The residents spoke to county commissioners during the public comment portion of the meeting about the case involving Stephens County High School teacher Daniel Hebert.

Hebert castrated two cats in an Animal Science classroom at the high school earlier this month and last week, Toccoa-Stephens County Animal Control issued a summons to Hebert, calling him to Stephens County Magistrate Court on two counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.

A host of people who spoke to the county commission Tuesday night questioned where animal control received its authority to issue the summons.

“He has not been sworn in,” said Revonda Seymour. “I talked to all the judges. Where is he getting his authority from?”

Stephens County Attorney Brian Ranck said that county code does partially provide an answer to that question.

“The code of Stephens County does spell out who can enforce that code, sheriff’s deputies, the marshal, the animal control officer,” said Ranck.

However, Ranck said he and the county are not offering an opinion on the specifics of this case in regards to the swearing in of an animal control officer.

“We do not need to be giving opinions on what was done right and what was done wrong,” said Ranck. “That court process needs to unfold. Both sides can give their evidence and Judge Tabor (Magistrate Judge Don Tabor) can make that decision.”

A number of speakers also expressed their clear support for Hebert.

Becky Deitz-Payne said what has happened to Hebert is ridiculous and has been blown out of proportion.

“He is a wonderful teacher,” she said. “I think what he did in class is completely okay. They would not have been able to see that under any other circumstance unless they went to college if they were going for some type of degree in that field.”

Meanwhile, Stephens County Middle School Agriculture Teacher Mindy Moore asked how animal cruelty cases have been dealt with previously.

“If there was some issues with animal cruelty, how was it handled?” said Moore. “I highly doubt it was on social media like everything is. I highly doubt it was on the front page of the Toccoa Record. It has gotten so bad that folks are trying to bash the whole program. We have good kids in the program. Just because we have animal rights activists out there that get all bent out of shape. It seems to me like it is not about what went on in the classroom, per say, but that they have an issue in general and they want to be vindictive. That, to me, is what this is boiling down to.”

Ranck told those in attendance that commissioners would not speak on a pending case.

However, Stephens County Commission Chair Dean Scarborough told the students that came to show their support for Hebert to take this as a lesson of the dangers of social media, noting that once you put something out there on social media, it is out there and can be as harmful as something that is said face to face.

Hebert, who resigned his teaching position effective at the end of the current school year, is scheduled to appear in Stephens County Magistrate Court on the case on December 18.

He attended Tuesday’s commission meeting, but did not speak. He also declined to comment following the meeting when asked.