Dozens of administrators and educators arrested
by Zoe Sakas
Features and List Editor
It is very rare that school teachers are associated with words like deception or scandal, but unfortunately this has become the case in the city of Atlanta, GA. Teachers are typically the ones encouraging children not to cheat because it is unfair to the other students and because they won’t learn anything from it; they do not normally convince students that cheating is acceptable. It comes as a surprise, then, that for possibly over a decade, teachers of the public schools in Atlanta have been involved in a cheating ring in order to raise both the test scores of their students and their own salaries.
Last Tuesday, thirty-five teachers were called into trial in Atlanta to lower their bonds, some of which exceeded one million dollars, and decrease or eliminate their jail time. When they arrived at the trial, however, it appeared as if the judicial system was not completely prepared to administer justice, as most of the accused had their bonds significantly lowered. Most notably, the bond of former school superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall was negotiated down from $10 million to a mere $200,000. Furthermore, Dr. Hall need only pay twenty-five percent in cash and can use her signature to cover the rest.
Although this was the largest national cheating scandal in history, many people disagreed with the high bonds set for these educators, mostly because it is something completely unheard of. One of the lawyers that was defending the teachers cleverly stated, “I do not think a Cobb County grandmother needs one million dollars to secure her.” And, to some extent, this is true. However, the intention of the high bonds was to prevent something like this from ever happening again. By setting them so high to begin with, it was made clear that something like this is not acceptable. But, it was unrealistic to think that the bonds could have been kept so high, especially for teachers with no other criminal activity.
Another aspect of this trial involves the never-ending social issue of racism present in the United States. Because the majority of the teachers being accused were black, reports on the trial have been questioning whether these accusations were based solely on their behavior. Reverend Timothy McDonald from the group Concerned Black Clergy was the first to note this issue. “Look at the pictures of those 35,” he challenged, “show me a white face.”
Whether or not race will play a role in this case remains to be seen. Did these teachers commit a crime? Yes, and on a very large scale. But it is uncertain if these teachers would have faced the same same trumped up charges and high bonds if they were white. Reverend McDonald claims that they have seen “deeper crimes with much less bond set,” which is probably true. The racial divide in the South has diminished but not disappeared completely, and stories like these weigh heavily on black communities.
According to the New York Times, if convicted, Dr. Hall could face up to 40 years in prison. The black community of Georgia would be outraged by this ruling, but at this point, such an outcome seems very unlikely in the trial. However, regardless of what happens, this scandal in the education system has opened the eyes of many in regards to the reliability of those who are typically seen as some of the most trusted members of the community. Hopefully it will create a more active interest into the education system, for there are surely many more issues to be found and fixed.