Former Teacher of Year resigns amid GBI investigation

Philip Bradley Pirkle in 2005 school photo.

THOMSON – One of McDuffie County’s top teachers has resigned amid an ongoing probe by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

School board officials are expected to accept Philip Bradley Pirkle’s resignation at today’s meeting. He left his teaching duties at both Thomson Middle School and Thomson-McDuffie Junior High School on Friday, according to McDuffie County School Superintendent Jim LeBrun. Mr. Pirkle, who was Thomson Middle School’s Teacher of the Year last year, is accused of improperly communicating with a 14-year-old girl through a social networking Internet site this summer, McDuffie County Superior Court records, an affidavit and an GBI application for a search warrant reveal.

Mr. Pirkle has not been criminally charged. Repeated attempts to reach him for comment have been unsuccessful.

“No one has been determined to be guilty of any charges at this time, but given my understanding of where they are in the case, the best thing that could have happened would be for him to no longer be employed with us,” Mr. LeBrun said.

A search and seizure warrant was executed at Mr. Pirkle’s Johns Road residence July 20 by GBI Special Agent Charles Kicklighter.

Specifically, authorities are looking into whether or not evidence exists pertaining to sexual exploitation of a child.

Several items were seized from Mr. Pirkle’s home, including an external hard drive, desktop and laptop computers, a media jump drive and a total of nine DVDs and CDs.

The investigation began July 15 – two days after the girl’s mother informed the McDuffie County Sheriff’s Department of the messages.

“The communications were of a sexual nature and it was discussed that they wanted to meet each other for sex,” according to court records and documents.

The girl was interviewed by the GBI agent on July 16. She described her relationship with the teacher as a friendship. Mr. Pirkle, who has taught school for several years, had the girl in his band class when she was in sixth grade.

Mr. Pirkle and the girl began chatting through their MySpace profiles on June 28 at 5:34 p.m., according to documents and court records. Their last chat was July 8 at 2:44 a.m.

The girl discovered Mr. Pirkle’s MySpace profile through a friend and complimented Mr. Pirkle after seeing him jogging earlier that day, court records and documents show. He responded by saying he believes that he’s doing the world a favor by “running half naked,” providing “eye candy for the ladies.”

The conversation evolved the next few days, covering topics including the difference in their ages, the girl’s relationship with an older woman, Mr. Pirkle’s marital status, his relationships with other students and his interest in staying out of jail, according to the records and documents. Eventually, the pair agreed to meet, saying they would use the ruse of the girl taking “flute lessons” from Mr. Pirkle at his home if anyone asked.

There was no mention in the documents and court records as to whether the girl and Mr. Pirkle ever met.

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