School officials investigate possible cover-up of violence - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

School officials investigate possible cover-up of violence

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February 2, 2005

Albany-- The assistant principal at Radium Springs Middle School is claiming he followed orders by not reporting physical violence by a teacher. The claim was made in memo last week to the principal, and now the school system is investigating.

That same memo enumerates eight incidents of alleged violence by school teachers at Radium Middle school. It was just last week, on January 25th, that Radium Springs Middle assistant principal Billy Orr documented instances of physical violence at the school. That was the same day Dougherty County Police arrested teacher Michael Lewis for grabbing a student by the neck.

WALB News 10 got the memo through an open records request. In the memo, to Principal Geraldine Hudley, Orr details eight incidents of reported teachers using physical violence on students at the school in the last four years.

Orr also wrote: "I've been loyal to you, Dr. Whatley, and the DCSS by not reporting physical violence outside RSMS, as you requested."

"I will never condone or, when there is alleged harm to children to choose not to investigate or to overlook that or pretend that it didn't happen," said Superintendent Dr. Sally Whatley.

Whatley says those orders did not come from her. "That was not my practice ever, to cover up incidents."

Now school officials are investigating whether any cover up orders came from Principal Geraldine Hudley.

What could have made him think that that's how you wanted the situation handled? "I can't really explain that. I have already begun my thorough investigation," said Whatley. "And I'm going to do my very best to get to the bottom of this."

The emergence of the memo from assistant principal Orr points to problems between Orr and his boss, Principal Hudley. "I can't speak to problems between the two of them. What's written there speaks to problems. Certainly."

And the situation is leaving administrators in doubt about a school they always felt was safe. "That's being brought into question right now," Whatley said. "And we've got to do everything we can to ensure parents that their children are safe."

Michael Lewis was one of the teachers listed in the memo. He is charged with battery. A parent went to Police about the case, after his complaints to the school principal were ignored.

posted at 5:35PM by dave.miller@walb.com