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The Atlanta Public School System has been marred in recent years by a state-testing cheating scandal. On Friday, March 29, 2013, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard issued an indictment against thirty-five former employees of the school system, including five high-level administrators, six principals, two assistant principals, five testing coordinators, an instructional coach, and a secretary. The indictment contains 65 counts, including racketeering, making false statements and writings, false swearing (perjury), theft by taking and influencing.
Dr. Beverly Hall, the former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, is listed first on the criminal indictment. She is accused of fostering an environment of immense intimidation and pressure on teachers and administrators. The main allegation is that teachers who did not produce high results on state standardized tests could have their jobs in jeopardy. This allegedly caused some school administrators and teachers to change students’ responses on state tests to reflect the correct answers.
In a 2011 state report, there was a finding of “major failure of leadership throughout Atlanta Public Schools with regard to the ethical administration” of the 2009 state test.
A criminal indictment is a formal charge against a defendant. Chief amongst the charges in this case are racketeering allegations. Racketeering is the operation of an illegal business enterprise in order to gain profits. Other charges in the indictment are:
- Making false statements or falsifying documents in a matter within the jurisdiction of the state or local government. (O.C.G.A Section 16-10-20). Conviction for this particular charge carries a punishment of a fine no more than $1,000 and/or imprisonment for 1 to 5 years.
- Unlawfully appropriating property with the intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of the property. (O.C.G.A. Section 16-8-2). District Attorney Howard may try to prove this charge by alleging that Dr. Hall, in accepting the bonus pay, committed theft by taking because she knowingly appropriated the money through fraudulent test scores.
- Knowingly using intimidation to prevent a witness from testifying fully and truthfully in a matter pending before a court, administrative proceeding, or grand jury. (O.C.G.A. Section 16-10-93).
The next step for those defendants included in the indictment is to report to the Fulton County Jail by Tuesday, April 2, 2013. They will be officially “booked.” Defendants who can post bond will be released that day; those who cannot will be held. All defendants will have an initial appearance. It is the first time that the defendants will go before the judge or magistrate. The purpose is for the judge or magistrate to formally inform the defendants of the charges and inform them of their legal rights.
At a press conference held by DA Howard on Friday, March 29, current Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Errol Davis assured the public that current safeguards are in place to prevent cheating from occurring.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]