An Alabama city is coming under heavy fire from some local residents for celebrating a convicted sex offender – a female teacher who admitted to raping a 15-year-old male student – as its “Person of the Month.”
Emily Morris is featured as “Person of the Month” on page 21 of Pelham Magazine, the official publication of the city of Pelham, Ala. (click image for PDF file of magazine)
But just five years ago, when she was a resident of Pelham, Morris was arrested on a variety of charges for allegedly having intercourse with a teen boy at Leeds High School where she taught. The state of Alabama has listed her as a sex offender.
The state of Alabama lists former teacher Emily Morris as a sex offender for raping a 15-year-old boy. The city of Pelham, Ala., is now honoring her as “Person of the Month.”
Now, the former instructor who avoided a potential 20-year jail sentence by pleading guilty to second-degree rape in exchange for one year behind bars and four years probation, is featured as “Person of the Month” in the June edition of Pelham Magazine, the official publication of the city, which is mailed out to local residents.
“I am stunned that a registered sex offender who is registered in another city was named Pelham Person of the Month,” one outraged resident told WND. “I find it hard to believe that there is not a more deserving candidate. I also find it hard to believe that the city and school system allowed a sex offender to hold an event at a school.”
According to the magazine, Morris served as “ceremonies chairperson and sponsorship co-chair for Relay for Life of North Shelby [County].” Relay for Life is a national program of the American Cancer Society designed to raise money in the fight against cancer.
Morris helped organize and publicize a Relay for Life that took place June 11 at Pelham High School, her own alma mater.
The American Cancer Society told WND it did not nominate Morris for the monthly distinction.
“We take safety at our events very seriously,” said Scarlet Thompson, the Alabama communications and marketing director for the charity. “After we were made aware of the situation, we took steps to reduce her role as a volunteer. This is an unusual occurrence and we are looking into the matter.”
Morris, now 31, is among scores of American teachers on WND’s extensive list of women accused or convicted of having sex with underage children.
The oifice of Pelham Mayor Don Murphy is said to be responsible for choosing “Person of the Month.” Mayor Murphy has not responded to WND’s requests for comment.
Members of the Pelham City Council told WND the decision regarding who is named Person of the Month comes from the office of Mayor Don Murphy.
Murphy did not respond to repeated WND requests for comment, but Pelham’s marketing director, Eva Shepherd, did.
“We were not made aware of her history and we interviewed her,” said Shepherd. “By the time we were made aware of it, there was no way we could stop it from being printed. We were kind of caught off guard.”
“We were deceived,” she added. “We won’t let it happen it again.”
Shepherd did not elaborate on the deception or precisely who did the deceiving, but she noted, “We will fully investigate candidates [for Person of the Month] in the future. We’ve learned from the experience.”
WND sought comment from Morris, who is married with two young children, but a woman answering the phone at her new residence in Helena, Ala., said Emily was declining the invitation for an interview.
Pelham Magazine made no mention of Morris’ criminal record, quoting her only about cancer-related issues.
“If you take a reflective moment to see who you know who’s affected by cancer, unfortunately you will likely come up with several names,” Morris told the city publication. “Both of my maternal grandparents died of cancer. A dear friend of my husband was diagnosed a very aggressive and hateful kind of cancer, but she is fighting back and we are holding on to hope.”
Pelham City Councilman Bill Meadows said it’s “regrettable” Morris was selected and featured as Person of the Month, but he offered a tone of forgiveness for the former teacher.
Pelham City Councilman Bill Meadows
“Does it bother me she’s in the magazine? Yes, because that would be very embarrassing,” Meadows, 70, said. “It’s very unfortunate. Would it bother me that she’s trying to do something to do good in life? I’m impressed that she’s trying to do something [positive].
“If you get convicted and you did the crime and you did the time, is that the end of the road for you in this country?” he asked. “I wouldn’t think so, especially if you have a family with kids and trying as a family to help other people. I commend her for it.”
“It’s regrettable that’s happened in her past,” he added. “I’m a Christian and I believe in forgiving people.”
Meadows says he actually attended the Relay for Life promoted by Morris, and was so moved by the professionalism of the event, that he increased his planned $25 personal donation to $100.
Another member of the city council, Karyl Rice, told WND, “I’m certainly in favor of people who commit their offenses to be given second chances, but it’s one of those deals when someone is a true pedophile, and I don’t really think [Morris] is, but you don’t know about somebody until it happens again.”
She also is amazed at the phenomenon of teachers having sex with their students.
“I find it very hard to understand why it’s everywhere in the United States. It’s an epidemic.”
Regarding this case specifically, Rice was puzzled why Morris would even agree to a high-profile local magazine interview.
“That’s what surprises me,” Rice said. “I said if I were in her position and I knew that I was listed as a sex offender and I knew that anyone could pull that [information] up and I knew that I served time, would I go and put myself out to the community? I certainly wouldn’t give interviews to let people know I’m in charge of it. Maybe she’s naive.”
Rice says she’s received e-mails about the situation, and she’s trying to calm local outrage.
“I’ve tried to soothe everybody,” she said. “It happened. I don’t think it will ever happen again, and nobody got hurt. Let’s just leave it alone.”
The selection of Morris to be Pelham’s Person of the Month has been a hot topic of discussion on Alabama Live, a local online forum. Some of the comments include:
- “I think it is a disgusting choice.”
- “She was sentenced to a year in prison, and was married when she raped the student in the back seat of a car. This from a teacher, who is then allowed to hold events at a high school where there are young boys? I thought if you were a convicted sex offender, you couldn’t even live within so many feet of a school, much less hold events at one. Sounds to me like she is in violation. What are they thinking?! Everyone should be outraged by this!”
- “I called city hall and found out the mayor’s office chooses Person of the Month. It looks like someone is trying to keep this hush-hush. I have a feeling they are too late, though. If the national media found out about this, they would have a field day.”
- “Her crime is just that. A crime, yes. A sin, yes. Should she have been chosen as [Person of the Month]? Absolutely not. But did anyone actually read the article or just stop when you saw her name? What she did then was terrible. But what she’s doing now is for a good cause. Anyone ever heard of the concept of restitution? Giving back? Paying it forward? I agree with [another poster], ‘School wasn’t in session … there’s a whole bunch of jumping to conclusions going on … No one has said it was OK for this lady to be the (Person of the Month), but you don’t know what has transpired … You really don’t know anything except what you found when you Googled her name.’ Let’s all move on. It would appear that’s exactly what she is trying to do.”
- “The Bible tells me to forgive seventy times seven.”
- “Forgiving and our city recognizing a sex offender as the Person of the Month are two different things.”