A grand jury has indicted former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall and almost three dozen others in a cheating scandal.
The indictment alleges that 35 educators conspired to conceal cheating or retaliate against whistleblowers in an effort to bolster the Criterion Referenced Competency Test scores. Prosecutors allege that the activity began as early as 2005.
A state investigation in 2011 found cheating on standardized tests by nearly 180 educators in 44 Atlanta schools. Investigators say educators gave answers to students or changed answers on tests after they were turned in. Investigators say teachers who tried to report the cheating faced retaliation, creating a culture of “fear and intimidation” in the district.
Hall is the first person named in the 90-page indictment.She is charged with violation of Racketeering Influence and Corruption Act, false statements and writing, theft by taking and false swearing.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said that without Hall, the “conspiracy” to cheat in 58 Atlanta schools could not have taken place.
Howard said the theft charges relate to bonuses received by Hall in relation to schools’ test scores. Hall had been named 2009 National Superintendent of the Year by American Association of School Administrators.
Hall faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted. The grand jury recommended a $ 7.5 million bond for Hall, according to Howard.
Former human resources officer Millicent Few is also listed. In the state report, Few was accused of destroying documents. She faces violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and False Swearing charges.
Three other executive directors were also listed: Sharon Davis Williams, Sharon Davis-Williams, Tamara Cotman and Michael Pitts.
At least 30 educators are also listed, according to the source. The indictments include six principals, two assistant principals, six testing coordinators, 14 teachers, school improvement specialists and one school secretary.
Grand jury warrants have been issued for all 35 defendants. Howard is asking that they turn themselves into Fulton County Jail on Tuesday.
Former Georgia attorney general and lead state investigator into the APS cheating scandal, Michael Bowers, said that he believes the indictment vindicates students and even some teachers.
Bowers He said the investigation was a large undertaking.
“We had 2100 interviews…There were 56 schools. There were 800,000 documents. It went on for about 12 months, so it was a big investigation,” Bowers said.
Bowers said the evidence against Hall was “clear as a bell.”
Attorneys for those who’ve been indicted are already out front defending their clients.
Gerald Griggs, who has represented nearly a dozen people in the cheating scandal, said that teachers should be held liable for the actions of their superiors.
Angela Williamson and Startlette Mitchell are clients represented by Griggs named in the indictment. He said that he was especially surprised by Williamson’s indictment because he said that a tribunal of educators had exonerated her of any wrongdoing on the same allegations.
FOX 5’s Deidra Dukes talked with attorney Bruce Harvey, who represents three of those named in the indictments, said he believes this was a political move by the grand jury. He insists his clients are not guilty.
Harvey said his clients are eager for their day in court and said he is confident they will be vindicated.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report