AL schools have limited resources to investigate questionable - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

AL schools have limited resources to investigate questionable behavior

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

A number of investigations have come to light recently involving alleged inappropriate behavior between teachers or staff and students. It begs the question, are school systems equipped with the necessary tools to deal with these types of situations?

"Using the resources that schools have, they try to make sure they protect students, and also have to protect the rights of the individuals that are being accused," said Eric Mackey, the Executive Director of School Superintendents of Alabama.

Mackey says it's a delicate balance but there are policies in place.

"School officials know the first thing they have to do is make a report to DHR, which has its own investigative processes," Mackey said. "Schools review video footage, interview students, interview teachers and do as much as they can to verify or dismiss the accusation."

Still, Mackey knows the resources available to school systems are limited.

"They don't have the power of subpoena; they don't have the authority to go out in the community and interview neighbors or other associates," Mackey said. "They don't have the authority to go and look at people's cell phone records and text messages; they have to deal with what they have on school property."

And the initial punishment can only go so far without evidence to back up the claim.

"Under the law, the superintendent can put any employee on paid leave immediately, those leaves usually last one to two weeks," Mackey said. "The school board can extend that leave, they can eventually cut off pay if they feel like the situation merits that, and they can certainly move toward termination."

No one from the state Department of Education was available to go on camera, but did release its position in an email.

It says:

Any parent concerned about an inappropriate relationship between their child and teacher should notify the school and law enforcement. They can notify the department as well, especially if they feel their concerns are not being addressed locally.

But Mackey says that may not be the most appropriate process.

"You really can't involve the state department to any degree," said Mackey.

Mackey says it's important that the state remains impartial in case the department is needed down the road.

"If they feel like some action needs to be taken against a person's certificate, they become then the accuser and they have to take that case to the state superintendent."

In Lowndes County, Superintendent Daniel Boyd goes to trial Thursday on 243 reckless endangerment charges in case involving a school janitor. A Montgomery middle school teacher charged with indecent exposure will make his first court appearance next week.

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