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Suspension recommended for assistant principal

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Jonesboro High School Assistant Principal Sandra Nicholson learned Tuesday that a school system tribunal board recommended that she be suspended for three days, without pay, because she did not stop the school's dance team from performing a risqué routine at a Jan. 13 basketball game.

The recommendation came after 13 hours of testimony from 10 witnesses, said attorney Keith Martin, who represented Nicholson during the hearing.

The decision will now go to the Clayton County Board of Education for approval.

"We had a fairly administered hearing, and we accept the recommendation, and we hope the board accepts it as well," Martin said.

Video of the performance made its way onto popular web sites, including MySpace.com and YouTube.com. The incident drew attention from local and national media after the dance team was disbanded at the end of January.

The video of the controversial routine showed the girls on the dance team wearing thigh-high stockings, mini shorts and hooded sweatshirts, while performing simulated lap dances in front of seated males.

According to Martin, Nicholson viewed the dance routine before the game, although the team members were not wearing their outfits, and the males were not present.

The suspension was recommended by the tribunal board despite a request from the school system to terminate Nicholson's employment.

Martin said the school system originally offered Nicholson a three-day suspension in January, and later increased the suspension to five days when she refused to sign a letter agreeing to the shorter suspension. "It cited many code sections that she didn't understand," Martin said.

He said the district's decision that Nicholson should be fired came only after she decided to appeal the five-day suspension. "When she availed herself of rights that every educator has, it went to termination," he said.

School System General Counsel Julie Lewis said the recommendation to have Nicholson fired was the result of concerns senior school system administrators had about "the employee's ability to be a building leader when she was not willing to accept any consequences, or to be held accountable for her errors in judgment ...

"Clayton County cannot operate effectively, and efficiently when building administrators will not exercise appropriate judgment and be held accountable for their actions," she said. "This also sets a poor example for students who must be held accountable for their behavior, and be taught to exercise good judgment."

Lewis said the school board has 10 days to accept the decision, once it receives the formal, written recommendation, the findings of fact and the transcript from the hearing. She did not say when the board should receive that information.

"The Board will review the findings of fact and recommendation and decide whether or not to accept or modify the recommendation," she said.