Student Katelyn Campbell and principal George Aulenbacher usually see each other in the hallways at George Washington High School in Charleston. But the two faced each other in a hearing held in Kanawha County Circuit Court on Tuesday.
Dozens of parents, teachers, and friends packed the courtroom to hear Campbell and Aulenbacher describe what happened in a conversation following a school assembly featuring controversial pro-abstinence speaker, Pam Stenzel, on April 9.
That conversation led Campbell to ask for an injunction against Aulenbacher on April 15.
"I want to be protected from any other further discrimination," Campbell said. "I demanded his resignation and that's something I stand by."
In one of the first instances since Stenzel spoke at GWHS on April 9, Aulenbacher publicly shared his side.
The principal said he called Campbell into his office after Campbell spoke to several reports. Aulenbacher admitted he was upset Campbell spoke to the press before talking to him about how she felt.
"'It feels like you stabbed me in the back,'" Aulenbacher said, recalling the conversation in his office. "I told her, how would she like it if someone called her college ...and made accusations about you?"
The principal said he wanted to use an analogy to describe the hurt he felt, but he never meant to intimidate or threaten Campbell. He admitted that he never called Wellesley College, where Campbell had been accepted.
Campbell said she interpreted the conversation as a threat. She said she was afraid Aulenbacher could jeopardize her scholarship to the college.
"He was angry, he was obviously upset with me," said Campbell, the vice president of the GW student body. "I cried. I'm not a particularly emotional person."
Campbell claimed her fears were based in an unrelated incident in which Aulenbacher reportedly convinced the school's band director to contact West Virginia University on behalf of one student, who ultimately lost his scholarship.
The attorney representing Aulenbacher pointed out that student was the stepson of Michael Callaghan, Campbell's lawyer.
Both Campbell and Aulenbacher said they maintained good rapport before the Stenzel incident. Aulenbacher described a winter dance in which Campbell danced with his eight-year-old daughter.
"She's an intelligent young lady," said the principal, referring to Campbell. "She's a good kid."
Campbell said she doesn't think Aulenbacher will wrong her in the future, but she wants to make sure her future at Wellesley is safe, considering GW houses her academic records.
"I'm not someone he's in business with that he can intimidate," Campbell said.
The senior said she refrained from initially consulting Aulenbacher after she learned of a conversation the principal had with junior class president Ankur Kumar that week regarding the abstinence speaker.
"You need to go inside now, or I'm going to call your parents and you'll be suspended," Aulenbacher said, recalling the discussion with Kumar that took place that same week.
Kumar also testified at the hearing on Tuesday. He said even though the discussion got heated, he never felt threatened by Aulenbacher's comments.
"I do not believe he should resign,"Kumar said. "I've said that time and time again."
Outside the courtroom, signs lined the benches in support of Aulenbacher.
"I just feel like no one's focusing on the fact of how great Aulenbacher is," said Simran Walker, a junior at GW. "He has an open-door policy. Any time anyone has a problem, you can walk right in there."
Judge Duke Bloom presided over the hearing. He asked lawyers to prepare arguments on whether Campbell, 17, can legally ask to file an injunction, considering she's not 18.
Bloom will make a decision on May 3.