BOE Suspends Assistant Principal
Bainbridge Community News, February 20, 2009

Original Story

Bruising on Child's Bottom

The assistant principal, involved in the controversial spanking of a 9 year old 3 times in one day, has been suspended without pay for 10 days and prohibited from ever using corporal punishment while employed by the Decatur County Board of Education.

At the end of the regular Board of Education meeting on Thursday, the Board went into an unusual executive session.  After the 1 1/2 hour session, a somber Board of Education Chairman, Dr Sydney Cochran, issued both a verbal and a written statement.  The written statement is included below.

The findings included "There is a discrepancy of the number of licks given by the employee and testimony of the witnesses."  It also reiterated previous statements from Superintendent Jones, that Ms Grimsley did not violate policy and affirmed that she did use poor judgement.  

In the vote to affirm the disciplinary action, Sydney Cochran, Bobby Barber Jr., Jacky Grubbs and Randall Jones voted yes.  Clarissa Kendrick and Winston Rollins abstained.  They did not give state a reason for not voting yea or nay.  If a conflict of interest was involved, they would have excused themselves from the executive session.

The spankings occurred on Friday, February 6.  The mother reported the bruising to Public Safety on Sunday night, after a visit to the hospital.  On Monday, she filed a complaint with Decatur County Schools.  Another report was filed with the Sheriff's office a day later.

A significant crowd attended the meeting to show their support of Ms Jeanette Grimsley, the assistant principal.  They waited patiently through the meeting and then in the hallway during the executive session to hear any action taken.  Several spoke with us as they waited.

Christine McGriff told us that Ms Grimsley is an outstanding woman.  She stated that Ms Grimsley is very sad over the incident.  George Washington stated is aware of the challenge of controlling students in the schools.  He stated the school and the home environment need to come together as one, so this type of thing will not happen again.  He would like to see a full investigation into both sides to get all the facts so the problem can be fixed.

Ms Grimsley is a long term employee, approaching 20 years, of Decatur County Schools.  She served as a lead teacher and then moved to model teacher in the school system before being promoted to assistant principal.  This is her first year in that capacity.

The overwhelming majority of the 50 to 75 people attending the meeting were there in support of Ms Jeanette Grimsley, the assistant principal.  Several who requested to speak before the Board were denied the opportunity because board policy states "The Board will not hear personnel or student matters during public participation."

Whereas I agree the Board should not discuss personnel issues in public, I would think it is a citizen's right to free speech to speak about any school related matter they choose, even when it makes us uncomfortable.

The statement below indicates the board will be reviewing policy on corporal punishment.  It appears the policy must be further developed to cover cases such as this.

Decatur County Board Of Education Public Comment

On February 9, 2009, our Superintendent met with and had a lengthy discussion with a parent of a Potter Street Elementary School student involving corporal punishment. After a preliminary discussion of the circumstances, it was determined a full investigation was necessary. The Superintendent and Director of Human Resources began an intensive investigation of the incident. The Board is convinced that the Superintendent and Human Resources Director performed a thorough investigation into every aspect of this case.

The primary focus through the process was to obtain accurate and precise statements, comments, information or documentation from all parties connected to this issue. A great deal of care was given that all parties were treated fairly and professionally and that appropriate protocol was followed.

The findings of the investigation revealed:

Though the employee who administered the corporal punishment followed appropriate procedures, including contacting a parent and obtaining permission to administer corporal punishment prior to each occasion, the employee used poor judgment in the number of times corporal punishment was administered to the student.
  • There is a discrepancy of the number of licks given by the employee and testimony of the witnesses.

    As a result of this investigation, the Decatur County Board of Education has imposed the following disciplinary action, which has been accepted by the employee:

    A 10 day suspension without pay to begin February 20, 2009 through March 6, 2009.
  • The employee will be prohibited from using corporal punishment while employed by the Decatur County Board of Education.
  • The employee must attend professional development on alternative disciplinary strategies or procedures.
  • All disciplinary documentation will be placed in the employee's personnel file.
  • The Decatur County Board of Education reserves the right to review the employee's certification status based on a Georgia Professional Standards Commission investigation.

    In addition, this matter has been reported to the Decatur County DFCS office, the Decatur County Sheriff's Office, and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, which is responsible for certification of teachers in the state.

    In determining the punishment phase of this process, the Board of Education considered the facts that before this incident the employee had no other professional improprieties and has had 13 stellar career years with the entirety being in Decatur County. The employee has demonstrated a commitment and devotion to the teaching profession, students, school and community.

    The employee has shown remorse and apologized to all parties involved. We are disappointed that better judgment was not used by the employee but feel that no malice or intent to abuse the child was involved. The Decatur County Board of Education has suspended the use of corporal punishment until further notice and a complete review of Policy JDA.

    In closing, the Board and administration have tried with the best of our ability to act responsibly and appropriately to all individuals as it relates to this case.


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