DeKalb teacher got job despite Florida court history

He was banned for life from teaching in Florida after being charged with sexually abusing a student, but Horace Morris managed to get a classroom job in Georgia.

Morris resigned Friday from the DeKalb County School District after his past caught up with him and his termination tribunal was about to begin. The district only learned of his background after students discovered news articles about him online. The state independently discovered it around the same time after a new computer system flagged his past.

The law and justice teacher at DeKalb High School of Technology South got a Georgia teaching certificate in 2010, just one year after Florida took away his teaching certificate there and told him never to apply for one again.

Georgia and Florida are both members of the NASDTEC Clearinghouse, a database shared by states to record educator certification and disciplinary status. Florida entered the information about Morris’ ban, but Georgia’s teacher certification agency failed to notice.

Kelly Henson, executive secretary of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, blamed it on a cranky old computer system that was too complicated. Someone in the certification department would have had to notice Morris’ Florida problem, then inform someone in the ethics department, he said. “Our old IT system had too many moving parts, and a few things fell through the cracks.”

The agency recently purchased a new system that flags certification issues and automatically informs an ethics official. Morris was caught when he applied for a new teaching certificate this year because he wanted to teach a different subject, Henson said.

DeKalb backgrounds all teacher candidates, and the district’s public safety department did run Morris through two government repositories of criminal history: the state and the national crime information centers, district spokesman Quinn Hudson said.

Morris’ Florida background was duly noted but was not communicated to the human resources department.

“Somebody checked the box that said he was cleared,” Hudson said. “We are now conducting an investigation to find out how he got through the system.”

Morris was hired Jan. 15. Students then alerted the district in mid-March about his past after they typed his name into Google and found numerous news articles, Hudson said. The district immediately suspended him, Hudson said.

DeKalb chief legal officer Ronald Ramsey sent a letter to DeKalb District Attorney Robert James on Friday that contended Morris violated a Florida court probation order by applying for a job with DeKalb in 2009, since he was ordered in 2008 not to work in a school for three years. The letter also said Morris claimed in his 2014 job application that he had worked for an Atlanta charter school in the 2011-12 school year.

Morris didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.

An April 22 termination letter details the circumstances that led to Morris’ arrest in 2005: While teaching in the Miami-Dade County School District, he was accused of forcing a 13-year-old girl to give him oral sex.

The girl was in his social science class at the Jet Mann Opportunity Center School, according to an administrative complaint by the Florida Education Practices Commission. The complaint said Morris pleaded guilty to child abuse, a felony, in August 2008, and the court “withheld adjudication of guilt” and ordered five years probation and the surrender of his teaching certificate.

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