Three people have resigned as a result of the allegations against James Chadwick Brigham, the Journal has learned. In addition to Brigham and longtime Kell Principal Trudie Donovan, Kell Counselor Peggy Jerden submitted her resignation last month, according to the district’s human resources chief.
Brigham, 37, was arrested June 21 on one charge of felony sexual battery and two counts of misdemeanor simple battery. He was released from the Cobb County Jail the next day on a $25,000 bond.
According to information acquired through an Open Records Request filed by the Journal, Brigham was suspended for seven days earlier in his career after he was accused of calling a student’s boyfriend a “sheet head” rather than a “towel head,” made a comment about how small a man’s penis was on a nude fresco and talked to two students about how they were fired for “fooling around in the back” of a Dunkin Donuts restaurant where they were employed.
The Cobb School district suspended him without pay in January 2007 for two days, and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission suspended him for five more days in January 2009 as a result of the accusations.
Brigham’s file indicates that he apologized for the comments, saying that the “actions are out of character for me and I truly cannot explain my actions, other than I got too comfortable with kidding around with these students and crossed the line of teacher/student behavior.”
In the most recent allegations against Brigham, a female student and her friend spoke to Jerden on May 17 about problems she was having with Brigham.
According to Jerden’s report to the Department of Family and Children Services, the student said Brigham told her “You look good today” and then slapped her buttocks when she came into classroom one day in May.
On another occasion, Brigham told the student he wanted her to sit next to him during group time in class and pulled her desk closer to his, according to the report.
“At one point, Mr. Brigham took her telephone and told (the student) that he was going to look through her pictures,” the report states. “As he proceeded to do so, he came upon a photo of (the student) in a bikini and Mr. Brigham said, ‘Your boyfriend is lucky to have you.’
“Mr. Brigham also saw a picture of (the student) and said, ‘Oooh, you’re flexible.’ He then said he was keeping her phone.”
In a third incident, Brigham slapped this same student on the face, “hard enough for an imprint to show on her face,” during the End-of-Course-Test, and when he was asked why he said “You know what they say about b——es.” The student asked, “No, what?” to which Brigham reportedly said, “When you are a pimp, you slap your b——es.”
Additionally, the student told the counselor that there were times after class that Brigham would “stand in front of the door for awhile and just look at her — then release her.”
Jerden wrote in the DFCS report that she told Donovan about the interview with the student immediately after school the same day.
Brigham was charged with felony sexual battery and misdemeanor simple battery as a result of those allegations.
The third charge of misdemeanor simple battery stems from an email sent by Kell Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Peter Giles on May 24.
Giles wrote that he received a phone call from a Kell student’s mother earlier that day saying that there was an incident in Brigham’s classroom “a week or so ago” when the teacher sat next to her daughter during a movie and was looking at her breasts.
“She said that he had his elbows on the table and his hands on his chin and was breathing heavily towards her while rubbing (the student’s) arm and making sexual comments (she was not specific about the comments),” Giles wrote.
According to a warrant for his arrest, Brigham said “Don’t act like you don’t like it.”
The mother also told Giles that the sexual comments were said loud enough that other students heard them.
Brigham was questioned by the district’s human resources department and resigned from Cobb Schools, effective May 31.
“I am resigning on my own free will to pursue other career opportunities,” Brigham wrote in his letter of resignation. “I have enjoyed the past 10 years at Kell High School and I look forward to possibly working with (Donovan) in the future.”
The Cobb school board has not yet approved his resignation, Human Resource Director Dr. Michael Shanahan said.
Brigham was a teacher at Kell High for 10 years and had been employed with Cobb Schools since August 1999. He is married and lives in Woodstock, according to jail records.
Brigham isn’t the only Kell employee who was arrested as a result of these allegations.
Donovan, 61, turned herself into the Cobb County Jail on June 21 on a misdemeanor charge of failure to report child abuse. She was released just before midnight that night on a $1,000 bond.
Donovan is accused of waiting longer than 24 hours to report the incidents involving Brigham to DFCS.
Among the documents the Journal received under the Open Records Request was a written statement by Donovan recounting the events between when she learned about Jerden’s student interview and when she contacted DFCS.
Donovan wrote in her letter that she called the district’s professional standards and ethics office the same day Jerden told her about the student’s allegations on May 17 but was told no one was available to talk to.
“I read the notes that I had been given by Ms. Jerden. (The secretary) said that no one was in the office, but she would give the message to Jay Morrissey (district investigation manager). I felt like I had done what I was supposed to do which was report the incident to (human resources) because the incident involved a teacher,” Donovan wrote.
Donovan said she exchanged missed phone calls with Morrissey again on May 21 and then finally spoke to him on May 22.
“He asked if I had filed out an Employee Incident Report Form,” the letter states. “I told him I did not know what that was so he emailed me a copy. He told me I needed to call (DFCS). I told him I did not know I was supposed to do that since it was an employee and not a family member.”
“I then spoke with Peggy Jerden who said we did not need to notify DFCS. She conferred with the other counselors and they all said that we should not be contacting (DFCS). I again talked with Mr. Morrissey and he said yes I did need to contact them and that I needed to do everything on the checklist.”
Donovan wrote that she immediately did everything on the checklist and sent it to human resources and that she “in no way” was deliberately trying not to do her job.
“I did not know that I was to immediately call (DFCS) and to notify the police when it was an employee,” she wrote. “I did what I thought the principal was to do when an incident involves an employee.”
Jerden filed a report of physical and sexual abuse with DFCS on May 22 at 1 p.m.
Donovan was asked to meet with Area Assistant Superintendent Ed Thayer and members of the human resources staff on May 29 and retired on June 1.
She has been with Cobb Schools for 34 years and was at Kell for six before she filed for retirement.
Neither Donovan nor Brigham have returned repeated phone calls since the Journal first learned of the arrests.
Jerden resigned to retire for “personal reasons” in mid-June after about 38 years with the district, Shanahan said Monday. He could not give an exact date of her resignation.
Despite the allegations, Shanahan insists Cobb students are safe from sexual assault.
“This particular situation has been resolved from our perspective, in terms of removing the individual from the presence of students,” he said. “The students are protected adequately, and the process is still in place and obviously working because it’s causing considerable alert. I’m confident that the students are safe as far as the authority of the school.”
He was unable to say on Monday exactly how many similar cases involving students and teachers were reported last school year.
In another incident involving Brigham, Giles also emailed Mary Finlayson in the district’s professional standards and ethics department about a “cheating investigation” that took place on May 23.
In Giles’ statement, he said that Brigham gave a final exam in his fourth period World History class and after noticing “unusually high scores” on some of the exams, told two assistant principals about it.
They questioned two students about the reported cheating, and one student admitted to taking a picture of the final exam answer sheet and distributing it via text message to other students; the other student admitted to receiving the message, according to Giles’ email to Finlayson.
Giles said that they brought in a number of students to question them about cheating and that half of them admitted to it.
“We then conferred as an administrative team and decided that we would give the students who admitted to the cheating a zero an those who had the discrepancy the opportunity to retake the exam on Friday morning at 8:30,” the email continues. “All of the parents were contacted by Mr. Chad Brigham.”