By Curt Yeomans
A Clayton County Public Schools tribunal panel decided on Friday that a Mundy's Mill High School special-education teacher, who allegedly asked a 17-year-old student at the school to perform a "hit" on a 16-year-old classmate, should be fired.
The decision was announced after a two-day employment hearing for Special-Education Teacher Randolph Forde, which included three hours of deliberation on testimony and evidence introduced during the hearing.
In addition to asking for the hit to be performed on the 16-year-old male student on Oct. 9, school system officials accused Forde of abusing the child by asking him if he was gay in late September, and of being dishonest about his interactions with the 17-year-old to whom he allegedly offered $50 to kill his classmate and friend.
"We, the members of the tribunal panel, do hereby accept the recommendation of [Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley] that Randolph Forde's employment with Clayton County Public Schools be terminated," Bernard Hatch, a tribunal panel member, said as he read the panel's decision.
The tribunal panel's decision is pending acceptance by the Clayton County Board of Education. Forde is also facing criminal charges of making a terroristic threat against the 16-year-old student, in Clayton County Superior Court.
School System Attorney Winston Denmark said the Clayton County Board of Education will have 10 days, after receiving the hearing transcript, to vote on whether it will accept the tribunal panel's recommendation. According to Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) 20-2-940, Forde can file an appeal with the Georgia Board of Education if the Clayton County school board accepts the tribunal panel's decision.
Forde's attorney, Borquaye Thomas, declined to comment on the tribunal panel's decision, citing the pending criminal case against his client. He also offered no witnesses to defend his client.
During his closing arguments, though, Thomas said "there is no evidence of a pattern of reprehensible behavior" by his client, and implied the school system decided to pursue the firing of Forde "because once the media got a hold of it, it was blown out of proportion."
Thomas said his client knows he made mistakes in his dealings with the 16-year-old student. "He's learned his lesson, he understands now what's appropriate, and what's not," Thomas said.
Denmark said he was pleased with the panel's decision. "I certainly believed they [the tribunal panel] firmly considered all of the evidence and reached the only decision the evidence would allow," he said.
The only person who testified on Friday was Clayton County Public Schools Chief Human Resources Officer Douglas Hendrix, who said Forde lied to him during an interview about the alleged request for a hit, and would not answer all of the questions asked of him about the incident.
Hendrix said Forde told him that he did not speak to the 17-year-old student asked to perform the hit again on the afternoon of Oct. 9, after talking to the pupil on his school bus.
A video tape from the school bus showed otherwise, as Forde could be seen, after getting off the bus, walking up to the side of it and having further conversation with the student, Hendrix said.
"He was not completely truthful about what happened," Hendrix said. "I believe there was information he was trying to hide. I don't know why he would do that, though."
Although Hendrix signed off on a recommendation of a 30-day suspension without pay for Forde, which came from Area Assistant Superintendent Anthony Smith, and was sent to Superintendent Heatley, the human resources chief said he supported the termination of Forde's employment.