Decatur High School (AJC FILE PHOTO)

Decatur teacher’s license reinstated after sexual harassment allegation

A former Decatur High School teacher who quit his job in 2017 amid sexual harassment allegations saw a two-year suspension of his teaching certifications reduced to one month by the state credentialing agency.

The school opened an investigation in early 2017 after a parent complained that teacher Jon C. Reese had entered a hotel room of female students at various stages of undress during an overnight trip. Reese resigned his position that May.

A month later, the Georgia Professional Standards Commission opened its own inquiry after school officials reported their findings that he had violated the Code of Ethics for Educators. That led to a two-year suspension of his state teacher’s certification through 2019.

But Reese appealed and the commission recently reduced the punishment to a retroactive 30-day suspension. All his certifications are valid and he is eligible to resume his teaching career, though a flag exists indicating the suspension. Most public school teaching positions in Georgia require a certification.

Tanis Miller, the commission’s attorney, said via email a negotiated order was brought before the commission for consideration on Jan. 10, after negotiations between Reese and an assistant attorney general. She offered no specifics to explain the reduced suspension.

Reese could not be reached for comment. He taught at Decatur High for 25 years and oversaw the school’s highly regarded, award-winning magazine, Carpe Diem, which is published five times a year. He also coached girls soccer and volleyball at different points of his tenure.

A City Schools of Decatur spokeswoman said she could not comment on Reese, including on whether he would be able to continue his teaching career with the district.

After the 2017 allegations surfaced, an earlier investigation into Reese’s conduct surfaced. Local news site Decaturish reported that the school system had investigated Reese on sexual harassment allegations in 2000, but records of that investigation were not in the teacher’s personnel file. Records turned up because the school system’s attorney kept copies. Reese told the news site that he had been cleared in the 2000 investigation.

Alumni have been quick to question the commission’s decision to reduce Reese’s suspension since it was announced earlier this month. One former student, 1999 Decatur High grad Rachel Mullins, wrote a piece on Medium last week where she said Reese apparently got away with harassing and abusing students for years. She said he created a culture of “fear and favoritism” and brushed off critiques and allegations from alleged victims.

Mullins said by phone that she and other students have talked about Reese’s inappropriate touching and other incidents since news spread about the latest allegations in 2017. She could remember being in the girls locker room and having Reese enter, noting that the girls were not always fully dressed when he entered.

“There were times where he would announce himself as he was walking through the (locker room) door,” said Mullins, now a licensed clinical social worker who has done work with sexual assault victims. “It was a thing. I remember him being intimidating … and just feeling like he crossed boundaries. How he would pick and choose favorites, give students sexual nicknames.

“It was always kind of shrugged off.”

News of his resignation and subsequent suspension in 2017 was welcomed by many, she said. The decision this month to reinstate his teacher certification left many bewildered by the process.

“They’re just going to let him go back into a classroom? That’s unacceptable,” Mullins said. “I believe he has lost the right to teach children.”

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