DeKalb’s Green investigated over teachers’ violations not reported

Former DeKalb County School District Superintendent Steve Green is being investigated by state officials on suspicion that he failed to timely report potential ethics violations by teachers to the state's certification agency.

The nature of the investigation was divulged in court documents filed by attorney Lee Parks — representing Green and the district in the matter — seeking to have a subpoena from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission thrown out. Many of the cases stem from Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on incidents occurring in schools or hires that were reversed after being brought to the district's attention.

Green's departure won't affect the ongoing investigation against him by the PSC, said Paul Shaw, the commission's director of educator ethics.

“We can’t discuss it other than acknowledging it’s open,” Shaw said of the case. “But we do have an open case involving Dr. Green, and his leaving does not change the status.”

DeKalb school district officials had no comment on the investigation.

When an educator appears to have violated the ethics code, being reported to the state could trigger an investigation and sanctions up to decertification, losing one’s state license to teach. Not reporting violations highlights the pitfall of the state’s voluntary notification system, where districts can report a teacher if they feel the violation does damage to student learning. It could also allow teachers with bad reputations to continue finding employment in the field.

The PSC’s initial investigation opened with allegations that the district failed to timely report potential violations against four educators. A subsequent follow-up included five more names. Another follow-up included six cases of educators who had been reported but the PSC felt should have been reported sooner, court records show.

If an educator is found to have violated the Educator’s Code of Ethics, the PSC can suspend, revoke or deny teaching certificates, issue reprimands or warnings or monitor educators for a period of time. If the PSC investigation determines that Green failed to report educators for violations, he could face the same sanctions.

Court documents show the investigation is limited to 15 educators that PSC officials said the district should have reported, or reported sooner.

Among them:

• A Toney Elementary teacher who was taken from his schoolhouse in handcuffs in 2018 and later charged in connection with the 2016 gang-related killing of a 15-year-old and his 11-year-old sister.

• A DeKalb County teacher's aide, arrested in late 2018 after allegedly pushing a 10-year-old student to the ground, who also had been arrested the spring prior after she allegedly fired warning shots at a group of teenage boys.

• One of two pre-K teachers who resigned in lieu of termination after being accused of tying up students with pipe cleaners as a form of punishment, and later charged with cruelty to children and false imprisonment.

• An unnamed educator who worked for a neighboring district while on leave from DeKalb through the Family Medical Leave Act. District officials reported the educator in February 2019, three months after that person was made to resign in lieu of termination and repay salary received during FMLA leave.

• A special education teacher who identified a special-needs student and the student’s disability on social media. The district investigated and reprimanded the teacher with a five-day suspension, but did not report the person to the PSC.

DeKalb County School District officials did not respond to requests for comment.