“I don’t know,” Superintendent Steve Green said.
When the Meadors investigation was brought to Green’s attention, he said there seemed to be enough evidence for a job termination and an arrest.
That was not the case when Meadors was sent home Friday after questioning, DeKalb County School District police Chief Bradley Gober said.
Gober said Meadors was not immediately arrested because he was not caught in the act of committing a crime. He said an arrest warrant was requested after investigators felt they discovered enough evidence to charge Meadors with a crime.
“We want to be sure we give everybody their due process as far as allegations go,” Gober said. “During the interview process, he gave some things that gave us cause, but it’s not like he confessed to any crimes. Before we place anybody in custody and rob them of their freedom, we wanted to make sure we have enough evidence.
“At that time, it was still an allegation.”
Freedom Middle School students attending a sex-trafficking seminar on Oct. 12 were asked if they knew anyone engaged in an inappropriate relationship. According to an arrest warrant for Meadors, a girl turned in the name of a 12-year-old boy. Meadors also admitted to meeting with the boy away from school, including public parks and at Meadors’ home. Investigators later found explicit text messages on the boy’s cellphone, then matched them with messages found on Meadors’ cell. Meadors’ parents reported him missing after he dropped off the video, on an iPad, and letters addressed to his parents, siblings and two unidentified people, which offered apologies and instructions for dividing any money he left.
Gober said Meadors was interviewed after 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 12 about the allegations against him. He willingly released his cellphone, laptop and iPad to investigators before being sent home.
It took three days to get the warrant because the allegations were first learned on a Friday, and Meadors was accused of a crime while performing his duties as a teacher. According to state law, an arrest warrant for a teacher may only be issued by a superior court, state court or probate court judge.
While a school district police department is employed by the district, the district’s rules take a backseat when sworn officials begin a criminal investigation, said Shannon Flounnory, Fulton County Schools’ executive director of safety and security.
“You will normally find concurrent investigations,” he said. “Something could be a violation of school district policy that might not necessarily be worth criminal charges.”
Meadors was allowed to go home on Oct. 12, but he was pulled from his classroom and told to report to the school district’s headquarters on Oct. 15.
Edward Mamet, a retired New York Police Department captain who once ran a sex-crimes unit during his 40-year career, said investigators often send home a potential crime suspect while building their best case.
“It’a not unusual, where the suspect is known and can be found, to not make a summary arrest,” said Mamet, who does work as an expert witness on police practices and procedures. “That’s done all the time. He’s a school teacher. They’ve taken his fingerprints. They know all about him.”
Vasanne Tinsley, the district’s deputy superintendent for student support and intervention, said counseling and other crisis wraparound services have been offered to students and staff at Freedom Middle School, given Meadors’ death and the ongoing investigation.
“A lot of students were impacted by knowing him,” she said. “And we keep an eye on the (alleged victim) … to make sure that student is safe.”