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State to Study Student Abuse
Friday, 14 August 2009

August 14 — Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that he has accepted the recommendations of the Office of the Child Advocate and created a working group to examine policies and procedures that are followed when cases of abuse are alleged in an educational environment.

“Any accusations of abuse by school personnel against children must be addressed strongly, rapidly and appropriately,” said Governor Perdue.

The Governor’s Working Group on Abuse in the Educational Setting will convene experienced school administrators and leaders along with law enforcement personnel to develop consistent statewide policies and protocols for addressing reports of child abuse by school employees.

The Governor has charged the working group with developing specific child abuse reporting and response procedures that can be adopted by every school system in the state. The group’s recommendations will include specific processes for parents and students to report abuse as well as protocols for school system management to use when taking personnel action involving accused employees and reporting the incident to law enforcement, system leadership and the Professional Standards Commission.

A specific task of the group will include developing protocols for addressing allegations abuse in special settings, such as those involving special educational programs operated by Regional Educational Services Agencies (RESAs).

“We must strike the right balance between protecting our students from abuse while also treating school employees fairly,” Governor Perdue added said. “This working group will establish the clear lines of authority and responsibility that will ensure these cases are addressed in a timely and appropriate manner.”

Governor Perdue’s formation of the working group comes in response to recommendations from the Office of the Child Advocate. In June, following a disturbing case alleging abuse of a child by school personnel, the Governor charged the State Child Advocate with determining whether Georgia’s laws and policies adequately address issues of abuse in the educational setting.

While the Child Advocate’s report found the state’s child abuse reporting and response laws adequate, it also found that a lack of clear responsibility for addressing allegations of abuse sometimes results in an ineffective response. The Governor’s action will help ensure that those responsible for addressing these allegations must respond quickly and adequately. The report is available online at http://gachildadvocate.org/vgn/images/portal/cit_1210/62/39/145977376school%20abuse%20allegations%20070609.pdf .

The first meeting of the working group has been tentatively scheduled for late August. The members of the working group are:

o       Matt Arthur, Superintendent, Rabun County Schools

o       Emily Lembeck, Superintendent, Marietta City Schools

o       Jeannie Edwards, Student Health Coordinator, Dawson County Schools

o       Stephanie (Taylor) Williams, Ed.S., Early Intervention Program (EIP), Montgomery Elementary School, DeKalb County Schools

o       Jay Fowler, Principal, Rocky Creek Elementary School, Henry County

o       Pete Skandalakis, Coweta Judicial Circuit District Attorney

o       Rachael Barron, Parent Representative, Atlanta

 
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