State News

March 31, 2013

35 charged in cheating scandal face deadline

ATLANTA (AP) — Nearly three dozen educators charged in the Atlanta public schools cheating scandal are facing a deadline to report to jail.

Named in an indictment returned Friday, the defendants are required to surrender at Fulton County’s jail by Tuesday.

A lawyer for two teachers said his clients would turn themselves in earlier than required.

“We plan on surrendering Monday morning around 7 or 7:30,” said attorney Gerald Griggs, who represents teachers Starlette Mitchell and Angela Williamson. “We have made arrangements for bond. That’s why they are turning in so early.”

A tearful Williamson insisted she was accused wrongly.

“I never, ever participated in any cheating. I did what was right for my students and that is to teach them,” Williamson told WXIA-TV.

A judge will decide bond for everyone charged, including former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall.

Hall faces charges including conspiracy, making false statements and theft because prosecutors say some pay bonuses she received were tied to falsified scores on standardized tests. Hall’s lawyers deny she had any involvement in cheating.

In all, 35 former administrators, teachers, principals and other educators are charged in the scandal. It’s not unusual for court officials to allow defendants to surrender to jail in cases that don’t involve violence.

Mitchell, a former teacher at Parks Middle School, is accused of racketeering and three counts of making false statements and writings. Prosecutors said she lied to Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents three times about knowing of suspected cheating at the school.

Williamson, also accused of racketeering, is charged with two counts of making false statements and writings and two counts of false swearing. Prosecutors said she lied in her disciplinary hearings, misled GBI agents and gave students at Dobbs Elementary School the correct answers on the CRCT.

“It shocked my clients,” Griggs told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (http://bit.ly/10qGr2i ) in a story published Sunday.

He said there were “a lot of tears” when he told them about the charges. Both women spent the weekend with family.

 

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