Fired teacher sues to get job back

District made new accusations after tribunal cleared her

A former Atlanta schoolteacher who was exonerated by a tribunal in the district’s test-cheating scandal is going to court to demand that she be allowed to return to work.

Angela Williamson, a former teacher at Dobbs Elementary School, filed suit in Fulton Superior Court this week, asking that Atlanta Public Schools be forced to give her a new teaching contract and back pay.

Williamson lost her job as one of 180 educators implicated in widespread cheating on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, which are considered key measures of a school’s academic success.

In June, Williamson became the first APS teacher to prevail when she appealed her firing to a tribunal of retired teachers and administrators. The tribunal said she should be reinstated, and the school board concurred.

However, since then, the district has notified Williamson of additional complaints. They include claims that she had one student who she considered academically superior go through the test in advance and helped her glean the right answers to share with other students, according to a document obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the Georgia Open Records Act.

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Williamson also is alleged to have told her students: “If you tell anyone about this, it would be the last person you tell,” according to a letter from APS Superintendent Erroll Davis sent to her via certified mail on July 27.

Gerald Griggs, Williamson’s attorney, said all allegations should have been brought before the tribunal that ruled in his client’s favor in June.

Pursuing them at this point would be double jeopardy, Griggs said.

“I understand their argument. I also understand what the law is,” he said. “The tribunal said she should be reinstated in no uncertain terms. So that’s one of the reasons we filed the lawsuit.”

Keith Bromery, spokesman for Atlanta Public Schools, declined to comment Friday.

“As APS has not been formally served with this lawsuit, the district is not in a position to comment on the action or any aspects associated with it,” Bromery said.

According to a state report on the district’s cheating, Williams was accused of wrongdoing involving both the 2008 and 2009 CRCT. State investigators said she prompted students to change their test answers from wrong to right by coughing, frowning and telling them to “go back over your answers.”

At the tribunal, Williamson and Griggs argued she had done only what she was trained to do: walked the classroom aisles and urged distracted students to go over their answers.

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