A Richmond County elementary school teacher has resigned amid allegations that she ignored a 7-year-old girl’s repeated attempts to notify her of bullying.
According to an internal investigation report obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, Annette Lewis Mayo admitted during a meeting this month with Sue Reynolds Principal Cheri Ogden that she was aware of hitting and abuse the girl endured throughout the school year and that the bully had tormented other classmates.
The report states that instead of writing referrals, documenting reports and notifying parents, as required by state law and district policy, the first-grade teacher told the girl to “stop being a tattle” and to “sit down, it is quiet time.”
The teacher’s letter of resignation will be presented to the Board of Education in April.
Mayo told school investigators that she contacted the bullying boy’s parents and that after the girl was moved to another class in the first week of March, she documented his misconduct on a referral form. The paperwork was never submitted to the administration, reports show.
The Richmond County School System has referred its two-week investigation on Mayo to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission for it to determine whether she violated the state educators’ code of ethics.
If claims of misconduct are confirmed, Mayo could, at worst, have her teaching certification revoked, said Cheryl Jones, the county’s assistant superintendent for elementary education.
The Georgia Professional Standards Commission, between 3/1/2013 and 3/1/2014, opened Ethics cases against 1,036 educators or prospective educators state-wide. Twelve of those were for Columbia County, and eleven for Richmond County.
The girl’s family has retained an attorney to consider criminal charges against Mayo for accusations that she ignored reports the girl was shoved to the ground, called names, and hit in the chest several times to the point that welts appeared.
“They are not taking responsibility at all for what this teacher has done to our daughter and other children who were bullied in her class,” the girl’s mother, Ashley Proud, said about the school district. “They let her back into classroom while she was under investigation, knowing good and well she admitting to neglect.”
Mayo did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment. Sue Reynolds’ Web site shows she earned her bachelor’s degree from Georgia College and State University in 2003 and received a master’s degree from Walden University in 2008.
She was hired in Richmond County in 2010, Jones said.
“There is a balance that has to occur between academic rigor and ensuring there is a climate that is conducive to learning,” Jones said of immediately addressing incidents of classroom misconduct. “Those are key beliefs of the school system. When those beliefs are out of balance, there are challenges that must come.”
Mayo’s resignation marks the third time in the past month a Richmond County teacher has been in the news on suspicion of misconduct.
Last week, Vernell Morgan, who teaches at Glenn Hills High School, was charged with shoplifting and reckless conduct to a minor, after reportedly leaving a 3-year-old child alone in an Athens, Ga., hotel room.
Before that, Thurston Williams, a teacher at Tutt Middle School, was put on leave for cutting a student’s shirt with scissors. Williams said he was joking when he snipped the boy’s clothing.
In 2011, the state passed a law requiring all school systems to incorporate anti-bullying policies into student codes of conduct. Included in Richmond County guidelines is a line requiring school staffers to “promptly respond upon personally witnessing a bullying incident or upon receipt of any bullying report.”
Jones said system administrators rarely are involved in handling school incidents, however, and the Georgia Department of Education said it has no involvement in teacher misconduct related to bullying or any way of verifying whether a school system is following rules.
The department does not collect data on resignations or disciplinary actions against teachers and other staff members, said Jeff Hodges, the state’s safe and drug-free schools program specialist.
“All teachers, principals, and other school staff members are employed by the local school system, not the Georgia Department of Education,” Hodges said in an e-mail. “Therefore, the Georgia Department of Education has no authority over the conduct of teachers and other school staff members. Formal complaints against school staff members should be submitted to the local school superintendent and the local school board which is the governing body of that school district.”
Ogden told investigators she conducted about 10 observations in Mayo’s class and never witnessed any such abuse. Jones also said she was unaware of any other complaints concerning the teacher.
Proud said she is happy her daughter was moved to another class but upset that she had to demand it.
Reports show that Richmond County Assistant Solicitor Nancy Johnson and Probate Judge Harry James reviewed the case but didn’t find enough probable cause or had jurisdiction to issue a warrant.
“You’re dealing with a child who was harmed both physically and emotionally,” Proud said. “Our daughter finally got hurt enough where she unloaded and told us everything, but what if the other children are not that brave?”