Video leads to STAR program demise - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Video leads to STAR program demise

February 28, 2006

Dougherty County -- A shocking hidden camera video shot by a student leads to the suspension of a school disciplinary program and a criminal investigation.

The Dougherty County School System shut down its STAR Program and fired the coordinator.

A student taped the coordinator forcing students to rough each other up. The instructor also brought in private school students, and that school has now closed its doors.

On February 17th at Radium Springs Middle School, STAR Program Coordinator Ronald Causby commanded one student to shove, push, and bully another. It was caught on tape, secretly recorded by a student because no one believed him when he reported the actions.

"He brought the camera to show the relative that he was not making this up. That it actually happened," said Deputy School Superintendent Carlos Keith.

School System officials and law enforcement will not let us show you that videotape, because it's now part of a criminal investigation. "Found it did happen, and that instructor has been terminated," Keith said.

The STAR program is supposed to help students with disciplinary problems. STAR stands for Student Transition and Recovery Program. It's run by a national company that Dougherty County schools have contracted with for seven years, with Causby as Coordinator.

He claimed he was teaching a lesson by having students shove each other. "What not to do if you are bullied, or what course of action you should take if you are being bullied at school. Course we found nothing to substantiate that," Keith said.

The student who made the video tape was from New Covenant Academy, a private school run by New Covenant Church, where Causby also worked.

Neither school knew of his other job. Pastor Doug Rea said "I had no idea at all. That was shocking." "Unknown to the school system and the National STAR Program this person was working a second job during the time he was employed with us," Keith said.

Both School's administrators say Causby did not have permission to take the New Covenant students to Radium Middle each morning. "That's not the way it operates. This is for Dougherty County students, Dougherty County school system students," said Keith.

Pastor Rea says New Covenant Academy planned to close at the end of the year, but decided to shut down early when Causby resigned. "Since we lost our instructor, it just made good sense, now's the time to close it instead of trying to hustle this out to the end of the year."

Dougherty County School Police are consulting with the District Attorney as part of their criminal investigation, and say charges could be filed against Ronald Causby.

National STAR program inspectors are scheduled to retrain the other three Dougherty County STAR instructors this week. Carlos Keith says he still believes the STAR Program is beneficial, and the school system plans to put it back in operation later this year.

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