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PSC will investigate Clayton teacher fight

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Georgia Professional Standards Commission voted Thursday to open investigations into the actions of two female Clayton County teachers, who allegedly fought in front of students over a male co-worker in October, according to an official with the commission.

Rex Mill Middle School Language Arts Teacher Chaka Cobb, and former Rex Mill Family and Consumer Science Teacher Ebony Smith, got into a profanity-laced verbal and physical altercation in front of students on Oct. 26, according to police. The fight was allegedly over comments Smith made on the Facebook page of a male colleague with whom both women are said to be romantically involved. Cobb is reportedly expecting a child with the male teacher.

Cobb and Smith were reported to the Professional Standards Commission by Clayton County Public Schools Investigator Andra Cherry, PSC Deputy Executive Secretary Gary Walker said.

"The commission voted to investigate them and it will be assigned to an investigator and they will gather information, and conduct an investigation," Walker said. "It usually takes a couple of months to complete an investigation."

Once the investigation is completed, Walker said, a report will be submitted to commission members, who will then decide whether to sanction Cobb and Smith. Sanctions could range from a warning or written reprimand, to suspension, to loss of certification to teach in Georgia.

According to copies of the complaints Cherry filed against Cobb and Smith, both teachers are accused of violating "Standard 10" of the commission's Code of Conduct for educators. The standard in question deals with professional conduct of educators, which forbids teachers from engaging in "behavior or conduct that is detrimental to the health, welfare, discipline, or morals of students."

According to the PSC's web site, Cobb has been certified to teach in Georgia since October 2000, while Smith has been certified since August 2007.

Walker said the complaints against Cobb and Smith were among the 59 complaints against teachers that the PSC received last month. Walker said it is hard to say what sanctions the commission may impose.

"It depends on the facts of the case," he said. "It's not uncommon to have two educators fighting with each other, though."

Cobb was suspended for 19-and-a-half days for her participation in the incident, according to Clayton County Public Schools' investigation file. That suspension was scheduled to end on Dec. 4, at which time she was to go on maternity leave. She is scheduled to be re-assigned to another school when she completes her maternity leave. Smith resigned on Oct. 30, citing a "relocation of family."

The male teacher, Derek Green, was suspended for 10 days, and returned to work on Nov. 13. The school system did not file a complaint with the PSC against Green.

The fight between Cobb and Smith allegedly stemmed from a message Smith sent to Green via Facebook on Oct. 25, in which she professed her love for the male teacher, and wrote that she was tired of being his "every blue moon [expletive]." In a written statement to school system officials, Cobb said she discovered the note when she found Green's Facebook page left open on her personal home computer.

Cobb sent a reply to Smith's note, and the following morning at work, the two female teachers got into a confrontation over Green, according to a police report. The confrontation started in a school hallway, and migrated to a classroom filled with students who later told police they saw Smith swing at Cobb, and heard both educators use profanity.

"Several teachers intervened, moving between the two," Cherry wrote in the complaint to the PSC. "There was swinging and hitting, and profanity between the two."

Cobb, who told school system investigators in her written statement that she was 35 weeks pregnant at the time of the incident, also attributed her actions to pregnancy-related "raging hormones."

"I felt extremely threatened for myself, and my fully developed child inside of me," Cobb said in her written statement.

In an Oct. 28 e-mail to Cherry, Smith said the incident was "childish and embarrassing."

A phone number could not be found for Smith. A phone number for a Chaka Cobb was found, but no one answered when a call was made to that number.