Fulton County Schools official reprimanded for not reporting harassment

Ron Wade Fulton County Schools chief talent officer, talks about staff development at Riverwood International Charter School on Friday, August 9, 2013. JOHNNY CRAWFORD / JCRAWFORD@AJC.COm

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Ron Wade Fulton County Schools chief talent officer, talks about staff development at Riverwood International Charter School on Friday, August 9, 2013. JOHNNY CRAWFORD / JCRAWFORD@AJC.COm

A state commission reprimanded Fulton County Schools’ human resources chief for failing to report a former assistant principal to the agency after a district investigation substantiated allegations of sexual harassment.

The Georgia Professional Standards Commission, the body that certifies educators and investigates complaints of improper conduct, recently issued a reprimand to Ron Wade.

The low-level disciplinary action serves as a warning “that future unethical behavior” could prompt harsher penalties. Wade accepted the reprimand and said the district is improving its reporting process.

“There was an unfortunate failure with this reporting, which warranted me accepting the consequence levied by the commission. We strive to be thorough and accurate with all reporting; however, when a mistake is made, we address it and do our best to correct,” he said, in a written statement.

The reprimand stems from Wade’s handling of a 2018 investigation into sexual harassment allegations against an assistant principal who at the time worked at a Fulton elementary school and later was hired to teach in DeKalb.

A Fulton teacher alleged the assistant principal sexually harassed her and then retaliated when she did not comply with his repeated requests for hugs and kisses, according to an internal Fulton report the commission provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The assistant principal denied many allegations but admitted he kissed and hugged a teacher and made an inappropriate comment. Fulton’s investigation found sufficient evidence to substantiate the harassment and unprofessional conduct allegations.

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The Dec. 17, 2018, Fulton report and its findings were addressed to Wade. That same day, the assistant principal submitted his resignation to Wade. In the letter, he referenced a meeting that took place a few days before, during which Wade “stated my file will remain confidential with Fulton County Schools.”

Neither Wade nor anyone from the Fulton district reported the sexual harassment investigation to the state commission, according to records.

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Instead, it came to light more than a year later when another complaint surfaced alleging that the former Fulton assistant principal falsified information when he applied for a teaching job in DeKalb County School District.

In 2020, a citizen filed a complaint with the commission, saying that the recently hired DeKalb teacher had concealed the reason he left the Fulton job. DeKalb launched an investigation, during which the teacher said Wade gave him the option to resign and “told him the investigation would not be forwarded” to the state commission, according to records.

The DeKalb district also filed an open-records request with the Fulton district to get a copy of its earlier investigation.

In November 2020, a DeKalb investigator recommended the teacher be terminated immediately for not disclosing the Fulton troubles.

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In a statement to the AJC, the DeKalb district said the teacher resigned effective Jan. 14. The district declined to address why he was allowed to resign and did not provide further comment.

The commission is in the midst of a separate investigation involving the former DeKalb and Fulton employee, who declined to comment. Details of that case are not public while the investigation remains open.

For his part, Wade said Fulton has changed how it handles such matters. The group tasked with employee investigations now falls under the internal audits department and “receives and investigates allegations separate from the talent division,” which Wade oversees.

As investigative findings are passed to his division, reports are made to the commission, he said in a statement to the AJC. He said Fulton is also looking for other ways to automate the reporting process.

Wade’s recent reprimand was not the first time he was notified about the need to clean up the district’s reporting practices.

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In December 2019, Paul Shaw, the commission’s ethics division director, sent Wade a letter after a former Fulton paraprofessional was convicted on child pornography charges. The man was arrested at the Fulton elementary school where he worked and was fired. That situation was “never reported” to the commission, wrote Shaw.

At the time, Shaw told Wade that a failure to report violations could result in disciplinary action.

In an interview this week, Shaw said he thought the decision to issue a reprimand after the incident from 2018 emerged “was appropriate.”

”If it happens again, I would think it should be a much more severe sanction,” Shaw said.