Guilty until proven innocent?

Recent events raise questions regarding student and teacher protections

The+mission+statements+that+show+what+Fayette+county+hopes+to+accomplish+all+revolve+around+the+success+of+the+students.+However%2C+when+the+students+are+the+top+priority%2C+the+protections+of+the+teachers+are+neglected.+

Lilly Carter

The mission statements that show what Fayette county hopes to accomplish all revolve around the success of the students. However, when the students are the top priority, the protections of the teachers are neglected.

Saijleen Chawla, Staff Writer

Last month, baseball coach and Fayette County teacher of eleven years David Munoz was arrested during a team practice. He faces charges for sexual battery, after allegations of inappropriate contact with his players. If convicted, Munoz will never be able to regain his teaching job.

This raises questions regarding the protections that teachers receive, even though the school system is only doing what it is expected to do.”

— Staff Writer Saijleen Chawla

This marks the second time this school year that a Fayette County teacher has been dismissed or investigated due to allegations. Last fall, Joshua Hitson resigned after allegations connecting him with white supremacy and fascism. There was no evidence of this accusation other than the community socially branding Hitson a white supremacist.

This raises questions regarding the protections that teachers receive, even though the school system is only doing what it is expected to do.  “The Fayette County School System carefully considers each situation and responds in a way that best supports the school community, including the students, parents, employees, and community at large,” Director of Human Resources Erin Roberson said.

“It is easy to accuse teachers because it’s ultimately the students who come first in the system’s priorities,” Starr’s Mill Spanish teacher Marcela Sample said.

Fayette County Board of Education policies align with Sample’s words. According to one of Fayette County’s beliefs, the school system’s goal is to provide a safe environment where student learning is top priority.  

Another statement from the list of beliefs asserts that “schools exist to promote the intellectual, social, and personal developments of students.” Students receiving the education offered by Fayette county schools are the main priority for the Board of Education.

In order to ensure that this atmosphere created is never compromised, it is important to pay close attention to all student grievances in order to alleviate them. If there is something that could possibly result in the infraction of what this county stands for, it must be investigated.

According to the website of Attorney Andrew D. Meyers, actions are taken on the basis of probable cause in order to avert overlooking a serious offense that could have happened possibly underdermining the school and what it stands for.

Teachers are given any protections allowed under the law, just as any other citizen.”

— Director of Human Resources Erin Roberson

“It is the duty of the authorities to investigate any allegations,” Principal Allen Leonard said. If such allegations turned out to be true, it could compromise the safety of the students.

Since the safety of students is the biggest priority for schools, does it mean that protections for teachers are nonexistent?

According to Roberson, there are protections in place for them when the decision is made for them to return to school. “Teachers are given any protections allowed under the law, just as any other citizen,” Roberson said.

There are also many other organizations available to help manage allegations and offer legal support for teachers. “I am a part of PAGE, which would help protect me from the libel if I needed it,” band director Bert Groover said.

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators has declared that “Professional learning makes Georgia a better place for teachers to teach and students to learn.” They also believe that teachers are honorable leaders whose services are valued. Due to these mission statements, they will ensure that teachers get the right kind of support and protection that they need, be it emotional or legal.

When asked how the school system would help restore a teacher’s credibility after facing accusations similar to those faced by Munoz and Hitson, Roberson could not give the county’s specific response because “all of the unique circumstances are considered.”

Roberson did add that a teacher remaining guilty in the court of public opinion “is an issue that extends far beyond our school system and speaks to our society as a whole.”

It may be that the teacher’s only choice is to either live with their circumstances and risk remaining guilty in the eyes of the community,  or completely change location, even after years of service.