'Teacher of the Year' nominee indicted for sex with child knowing he had HIV

Published: Oct. 10, 2013 at 2:58 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 28, 2013 at 12:55 PM EDT
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ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A possible health crisis that the Albany District Attorney and Dougherty County School Police are warning about tonight.

A former Dougherty County elementary school teacher of the year, Phillip Burns, indicted for child molestation, has tested HIV positive according to prosecutors. It's a story we first reported in a breaking news alert this morning.

28 year old Phillip Burns left his job teaching third grade at Lamar Reese Elementary School for a job in Muscogee County last year.

Prosecutors say none of his students were involved in the sexual crimes Burns has been indicted for but they say Burns targeted 15-year old boys through a fraternity in which Burns was a member.

"The boys who he targeted were a part of the junior league of that fraternity," said Dougherty County School Police Assistant Chief J.C. Phillips. "So when they were at a function mentoring a function, he just kind of showed up. Introduced himself to the boys, and weaseled his way in that way."

When Dougherty County School Police heard the complaint about Burns from the 15 year old boy's parent, Burns was no longer an employee of their schools, but police officials would not let a potential child predator possibly endanger other children.

"There was a hideous crime that had been committed.  The possibility of several different incidents," said Dougherty County School Police Chief Troy Conley. "And although he had moved on, and was no longer here in Dougherty County, we did have information he was part of a school system in Muscogee County, Georgia."

"He had to be stopped. We didn't want to just shift our problem off to another school system and let him continue his behavior there," said Phillips.

Burns was arrested in November 2012, and the Albany District Attorney's Office then learned Burns was HIV positive, and charged him with felony reckless conduct. Now the D.A. and School Police Investigators are reaching out to other victims they may not know about.

"There is always the possibility that there may have been other victims out there. And hopefully if they are, they will develop the courage to come forward," said Conley. "We're concerned about their well being and their health at this point."

Burns was indicted on five counts of molesting young boys. Prosecutors charge he sexually molested one boy, and asked another boy to send sexual pictures of himself.

Investigators say there is no evidence any of the students that Burns taught in Dougherty County Schools were involved, and they say those parents should not be concerned.

Dougherty County School Police ask anyone else with concerns about Philip Burns to call them at 431-1812 and to seek medical treatment at once.

Burns is out of jail on bond.

Investigators contacted the state Professional Standards Commission to make sure he is kept out of other schools.

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