Crawford joins retired Kell High School Principal Trudie Donovan, who had charges brought against her for failure to report “in a timely fashion as required by state law” a teacher who allegedly had slapped two students. The solicitor’s office dismissed those charges due to “a lack of evidence.”
Then there is elementary teacher Gregory Leontovich who was fired by the school system in 2005 on charges he sexually assaulted a 7-year old girl, despite the fact that her teacher swore the girl had not left her classroom on the day the assault supposedly took place and that a hospital exam confirmed no signs of an assault. Leontovich was cleared of all charges, although it took three years, including 26 days in jail, to be exonerated in Cobb County Superior Court.
Still dangling in the wind are Tapp Middle School Principal Jerry Dority and counselor Yatta Collins, both fired by CCSD for failing to report hearsay information. One must presume neither their innocence nor their guilt at this point since there may be further legal action, but given the Cobb County School System’s rush to judgment in the other cases you have to wonder.
I had a spirited conversation with a friend who thought I had “jumped to conclusions” in my column last week about the silence of the Cobb’s legislative delegation on how the school system seems to be interpreting the law on reporting child abuse. He says there is nothing wrong with the law. Maybe not, but he misses the point of my irritation.
If members of the Cobb delegation felt compelled to speak out on Common Core issues and against the purchase of math textbooks, should they not also feel the need to speak out on the fact that the school system seems to have gone a little overboard on their interpretation of the law and that this wasn’t the Legislature’s intent? If you are going to meddle in one facet of public school administration, should you not meddle in the other?
It has been one month since I first discussed this issue in this space and I am still awaiting some reasoning from our legislators on how they can discern the difference between talking about the school system buying books and not talking about the way the Cobb County School System uses a state law in which two of four (so far) educators have had their reputations impugned and then cleared by law enforcement authorities. (The Leontovich case took place before passage of the law in question, but still is indicative of the CCSD’s “presumed guilty” approach as it pertains to its teachers.) My door (and my email address) is open to any and all of them. I would welcome their comments and I know you would and school teachers would, too.
I did hear from David Banks, a member of the school board who wrote to say that no comment had come from the school board because the issue centers around a personnel matter to be discussed in executive session.
Banks added, “I assure you, I have expressed very strongly my opinion about the heavy-handed policy and law to the superintendent and CCSD legal counsel. My rulings, when I have served on a tribunal hearing, have reflected this opinion.
“Before Mr. (Randy) Scamihorn and Mr. (Brad) Wheeler were sworn in, I expressed to them that major policy changes concerning personnel needed to occur to stop some of this ‘guilty till proven innocent, but you are still fired’ practice and they agreed. And there are several instances over the years of this abuse.
“I have high hopes the board will revise its policy in a way that is more supportive of our employees soon. The superintendent has already taken some corrective action that will be more in line with the desire of the board and more is to come. The three old men have just begun.” This old man is glad to hear that.
Later over lunch, Banks reiterated to me his view that the interpretation of the state law by CCSD has been “too one-sided and carried too far.” He said, “We need to find out the truth in these matters before we take such drastic action.”
David Banks and I haven’t agreed on a number of things in the past, but we both agree that the current law is being misinterpreted by nervous bureaucrats and doesn’t seem to encourage the application of common sense. I assume our legislators in Cobb County would agree with that. I assume, also, that they will let me know if they don’t.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.