Cobb school district needs to fast-track ‘failure to report’ fix
by Don McKee
May 03, 2013 12:00 AM | 1737 views | 1 1 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
The Cobb school district has finally taken a step toward protecting the rights, reputations and careers of principals, teachers and other staff ensnared by misguided and over-zealous application of the state law mandating the reporting of alleged or suspected child abuse, molestation, rape and similar offenses. The district has dismissed a string of charges filed against Awtrey Middle School Principal Jeff Crawford, a 21-year educator. Crawford was accused of incompetency, insubordination and willful neglect of duty for not reporting a female seventh-grader’s allegation of a sexual assault off-campus by another seventh-grader. Crawford’s vindication comes soon after the dismissal of a “failure to report” charge against former Kell High School Principal Trudie Donovan, who retired last year under a dark cloud after 34 years in the Cobb school system. She was accused of not reporting that a former teacher had slapped a student’s behind and another student’s face in the classroom in May 2012. Then after the better part of a year, after the principal lost her job, and her reputation and paid out legal fees to defend herself, the Cobb solicitor general dismissed the charge about two weeks ago because of a lack of evidence to prove that she “willfully and knowingly” violated the mandatory reporting law. Donovan would never have been charged if the school district had done its work properly. And, by the way, why did it take the solicitor’s office so long to discover the lack of evidence? And what about the other cases of “failure to report?” There’s the case of Tapp Middle School Principal Dr. Jerry Dority and counselor Yatta Collins. Three months before Donovan retired, Dority and Collins were charged with failing to report that a child was molested and attempted suicide. The two were fired after a three-member panel of the school board upheld the district’s decision on appeal. There’s also the case of Greg Leontovich, a 30-year educator accused of child molestation. He lost his job, reputation and savings — before he was acquitted by a Cobb jury in 2008. Jeff Crawford’s attorney, Justin O’Dell, said he hoped the dismissal of charges against his client “is the first step by the school district on a path to changing the entire process of investigating and charging educators. ...” Amen. Let’s hope this signals the end of the district’s knee-jerk reaction policy that has brought down one educator after another in recent years and put them through a living hell. School board Chairman Randy Scamihorn has said the district is “in the process of reviewing the procedures.” He said he’s being patient “because these things sometimes become complex and the district may need time to work through changes and the ramifications of any changes.” But not too much time. Why does the district need more than a couple of days to review its procedures? They can’t be that complicated. If they are, throw them out and institute a sane policy. Fast-track the review. Fix the problem now.
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Dr. Teresa
May 03, 2013
I appreciate and share your passion for correcting this very serious situation, but PLEASE report the facts correctly. The Greg Leontovich situation was different from these involving the principals. IT WAS COMPLETELY DRIVEN BY COBB LAW ENFORCEMENT AND NOT CCSD HUMAN RESOURCES. Greg remained employed until his bond stated that he could not be around children while he was waiting on the Grand Jury endictment that exonerated him. Changes in Cobb policy would do nothing to help this wonderful dedicated teacher or any other teacher treated to a terrible investigation by Cobb law enforcement. Greg's situation did seem to teach Cobb law enforcement a lesson though. It appears they did change some procedures and I am in hopes that CCSD will do the same.
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