A Georgia licensing board voted Thursday to investigate allegations that a Shiloh High School Teacher of the Year who admitted having sex with a 17-year-old student had violated a state ethics code for educators.
Kennon Aampay Hall, 29, is accused of seducing a Gwinnett County football player who came to her for homework help, sparking a six-month affair that allegedly included trysts in a hotel room and a classroom, underaged drinking, and the viewing of pornography.
“The commission reviewed and determined that there is probable cause to conduct an investigation in the matter of Miss Hall,” said John Grant, chief investigator for the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.
Hall, who could not be reached for comment, could lose her teaching certificate if found guilty of professional misconduct, but she may avoid ever becoming a registered sex offender.
A Shiloh High School running back complained to administrators that Hall gave him a failing grade after he refused to give her a baby.
Because of the timing of her relationship with the student, a loophole in a Georgia statute that was recently closed could make filing sexual assault charges against Hall difficult depending on the aggressiveness of those handling the case.
The Gwinnett County Public Schools police force is still investigating Hall, who resigned citing medical reasons during a human resources investigation into her conduct. “We are looking at all of the aspects of the case and are having conversations with the district attorney’s office about possible charges ... if any can be made,” said Sloan Roach, a spokeswoman for the school system.
The mother of the student said school police have not interviewed her son about a possible sex crime.
“I feel like I’m being disrespected. They haven’t contacted me, they haven’t told my son what is going to happen,” Ericka Pender said from her home in North Carolina. “They are just sweeping everything under the rug and acting like my son doesn’t have rights. She could be a child predator.”
Sex between teachers and students in Georgia is considered sexual assault on a person in custody even when it is consensual. The felony is punishable by between 1 and 25 years in prison or a $100,000 fine if the child is 16, the age of sexual consent in Georgia.
Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said he is waiting on school police to finish their investigation. He added that sexual assault charges could be "problematic" in Hall's case because of a glitch in state law during the time of their relationship.
An existing law prohibiting sex between teachers and people in their custody was challenged by a June 2009 state Supreme Court ruling that said the law did not specifically prevent sex between a teacher and a student 16 and over, and that such relationships could be consensual and were therefore not a crime. The Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia rallied for a new law prohibiting the sex that would fix the vague language and make the law what legislators intended it to be. House Bill 571 was signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue on May 20 and went into effect immediately.
“The governor signed a bill which specifically forbids teachers from having sexual relations with children in their own schools,” Porter said. “The question now is if this relationship with the child and teacher occurred prior to May 20 it may be problematic prosecuting it.’’
The teen who complained about Hall told administrators in a statement their sexual relationship began in October and ended in April when he refused to father her child.
“One day in October I came after school for some extra studying with my teacher Keenon (sic) Hall. ... She began touching me on my leg and then asked me when I was going to let her molest me. ... We began to laugh, then she asked me again, this time handing me a phone number and asked me to call ...”
Some sex cases involving teachers and students age 16 or older occurring during the legal ambiguity were dropped because of the consent defense.
“Because those situations arose added fuel to the fire of getting this law fixed," said state Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna), chairman of the House Judiciary (Non-Civil) Committee. "We couldn’t have a situation where our prosecutors had their hands tied.’’
Officials with the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia said some police and district attorneys, however, have tried to find ways around the ambiguity to make charges stick. “It depends on the age of the student, it can be a statutory rape, it can be exploitation of a child in your custody,” said Rick Malone, executive director of the council.
Cobb District Attorney Pat Head still aggressively pursued cases against teachers accused of sex with students under the old, ambiguous sexual assault law. . Head has said a jury should decide whether a crime was committed and that the old interpretation of the law did not necessarily preclude prosecution.
Malone said in cases like the one against Hall where underaged drinking allegations have been made, charges could be filed on the testimony of a child as a witness. “If you provide alcohol to a minor, that is against the law."
Pender says she wants justice for her son in the form of a felony arrest.
“I am getting really angry about the whole situation,” Pender said. “I’m trying to protect my son.”
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