Dority and Yatta Collins, a counselor at the school, were both put on administrative leave with pay on Feb. 13 for apparently failing to promptly notify child-protection officials about suspected sex abuse against a student.
They both also have been criminally charged with one count of failing to report the suspected abuse, a misdemeanor. School teachers, counselors, and administrators are required by law to report suspected abuse to law enforcement or social service agencies within 24 hours of reasonably believing abuse or neglect has occurred.
Dority is represented by attorney Angela Y. Johnson, a solo practitioner in Atlanta. Johnson declined to comment on the case.
Lawyer Nina Gupta, of Brock, Clay, Calhoun and Rodgers LLC of Marietta, will represent the school district. Clem Doyle, the district’s lawyer who also works at Brock Clay, said his side also has no comment.
The tribunal will have five days from the time the hearing ends to render its findings and make a recommendation to the full school board. Only the full board has the authority to fire a certified employee of the district. But the hearing could take more than one day, and those additional days can follow at anytime over several months, not necessarily the next day.
The district issued a “charge letter” to Dority on March 2 outlining reasons that the district is attempting to fire her. The letter accused Dority of incompetency, insubordination, willful neglect of duties, and immorality, among other things.
According to the charge letter and other documents in Dority’s file that the Journal received under an Open Records Request, Collins learned on the afternoon of Monday, Jan. 30 that a female student had attempted suicide the day before because the student’s stepfather touched her sexually. Collins apparently learned this information from a friend of the student, not the student herself, and Collins called the girl’s mother to pick her up.
In the letter to Dority, which is signed by Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa: “Ms. Collins informed you that, despite allegations that the student was being sexually abused in her home (coupled with a resulting suicide attempt), she would not make any reports to outside child protection agencies,” according to the charge letter. “Ms. Collins specifically stated that, unless she heard the allegation of sexual abuse from the child herself, she would make no report to an outside child protection agency. … You left campus prior to the mother’s arrival, knowing that the student would be released to her mother and to a home in which she was allegedly experiencing sexual abuse. … The student has since been removed from the home.”
On Jan. 30, Collins gave the student’s mother a list of mental-health professionals who would evaluate the child for free, and also told the mother that a note from a clinician would be required for her to return to school. The child was absent the next two days, and Collins reported the suspected abuse on Wed., Feb. 1.
The charge letter also states that in an interview with Mary Finlayson, Cobb’s director of professional standards and ethics, Dority said she would not have done anything differently. Dority later submitted a letter acknowledging a “lapse of judgment” that she attributed to “being pulled in so many directions and having so much going on at a time.”
The district’s witness list for the hearing includes Collins; Finlayson; Cobb Police Detective Carol Largent; Marnie Herman, Tapp’s school resource officer; Angela Huff, area assistant superintendent; Jeff Inman, of the district’s prevention/intervention center; Gail Smith, Colleen Morich and Theresa Horace, Cobb County Schools counselors; and Paulette Herbert, social work supervisor.
Dority has been employed by the Cobb district since 1997, and principal of Tapp since July 1, 2007. At the time of her placement at Tapp, her salary was $104,822.
Collins’ tribunal hearing is set for March 27.
It is unclear whether the child’s stepfather has been charged with any crime. Cobb Police Sgt. Dana Pierce would say only that the investigation is ongoing.
John Adams, executive director of the Educators First advocacy group, described Dority as an excellent principal who has served admirably for years.
“It’s my hope the board will judge her based on her excellent job performance for many years with the district and that when all the facts come out, the board will have some sympathy toward Dr. Dority in this case,” he said. “I would also hope the district would not throw any principal under the bus based on one less-than-ideal decision. Principals around the district are watching this with great interest.”