School's staff implicated in sex scandal

A Richmond County Board of Education investigation has uncovered a sex scandal involving teachers, coaches and the principal of an Augusta middle school.


Calling it an "embarrassment" and "yucky," Superintendent Dana Bedden said seven Spirit Creek Middle School faculty members have been implicated in the incidents, which ranged from a pat on the butt to sexual trysts on an inflatable mattress in the school's public safety office during school hours.

At a news conference Monday, Dr. Bedden added several more faculty members to the lengthy list of staff and faculty implicated in the incidents. Refusing to provide names, Dr. Bedden said the school's graduation coach, who is listed as John Barksdale, was issued a letter of reprimand. Another unnamed teacher has been reprimanded and suspended.

A special education teacher and a physical education teacher were issued letters of advisement, which Dr. Bedden said informed them that allegations had been made against them but that the school board did not have enough information to pursue punishment.

This comes after the resignations of teacher Denise Ogden and former Principal Sharon McAlevy in November, and the firing of former school board public safety officer Ronnie Collins from his job with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office in October.

The investigation into the incidents began earlier this year when Ms. Ogden, writing under a pseudonym, sent an e-mail to the members of the school system claiming that faculty members were having sex during school hours.

After roughly two months, during which the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conducted polygraph tests on school staff, Dr. Bedden said investigators concluded Ms. Ogden was having a relationship with Mr. Collins -- who was one of the school's public safety officers at the time. A third person, whose identity was unclear, Dr. Bedden said, completed what has been called a "love triangle."

Dr. Bedden apologized and said no pupils are believed to have been around when the incidents occurred. Calling the situation "uncomfortable," Dr. Bedden said the sheer number of allegations made it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction.

"I have to be honest with you, as superintendent, this is probably one of the most difficult things I've had to do to try to make sure to be fair to people, but at the same time to hold these people accountable," he said.

Dr. Bedden did not rule out additional action against faculty and staff should more information come to light.

"This is not a perfect science," he said. "Anytime you are dealing with people, allegations are made that are true and some that are made are false. But in the end we try get at the truth as opposed to what is sensationalized or what makes for exciting conversation."

Two out of the seven people accused are still working at the middle school, he said.

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