By Michael Davis and Clay Wilson
Henry County authorities said Wednesday that they are investigating whether school personnel failed to report prior abuse of a child who was allegedly beaten to death.
Flint Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tommy Floyd said local police have contacted him about an investigation of Eagle's Landing Middle School staff. As the probe continues into the circumstances surrounding 11-year-old Joella Reaves' death, police are trying to determine whether personnel at her school knew of ongoing abuse and failed to report it.
Reaves was found dead in a bedroom of a Stockbridge home Dec. 1. Police have charged her aunt and uncle who were the custodial guardians, Rodney and Charlott Reaves, with murder and cruelty to children for allegedly tying the girl up, leaving her in the garage with no food or water and ultimately beating her to death.
Floyd said officials with the Henry County Bureau of Police Services have notified him that there is a "collateral investigation to the murder investigation that touches on whether or not there was a failure to report by those who are required to report" cases of suspected child-abuse.
"The investigation will look into, first, whether there was something to report and second, did they report it; and if they didn't, they are in violation of the law," Floyd said.
Under Georgia law, teachers fall into a class of professionals who are required to report child abuse if they have "reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused." "Willfully and knowingly" failing to do so is a misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Henry County Department of Family and Children Services Director Phyllis Shrader said Wednesday that any reports from school personnel of abuse would have come to DFCS. But, she said, "We have no history on (Rodney and Charlott Reaves), and we never investigated them."
Officials with the Henry County School System said Wednesday that they are aware of the police investigation and that they are conducting their own investigation.
Cindy Foster, the school system's coordinator of community development, issued the following statement from system Superintendent Jack Parish:
"The (system) is in the process of continuing its investigation into the actions and responsibilities of personnel at Eagle's Landing Middle School to determine their adherence to the requirements for reporting suspected child abuse ?.
" ? In addition to the school system's internal investigation of the matter, all personnel of the system have and will continue to cooperate fully with all investigative personnel from other agencies."
Foster said that because the investigation is ongoing, and because it involves personnel matters, system officials can provide no further comment or information.
Henry County police Lt. Joe Tammaro said, "We are following up on information developed during the course of the investigation but I can't comment specifically."
The Reaveses are scheduled for a bond hearing Dec. 17 in Henry County Superior Court.