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Clayton principal loses certification, still working
Clayton Schools: Adams to stay on job 'until further notice'

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Mundy's Mill High School Principal Priscilla Adams was on the job Friday - more than a week after the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC) revoked her educator's certification for allegedly not taking enough action to stop a sex video, involving three of her students, from circulating throughout the school, and on the Internet, last year.

On Sept. 10, the commission revoked Adams' certification in educational leadership, instructional supervision and English. Her certifications in all three areas had been renewed last year, and were scheduled to expire in 2013, according the PSC's web site.

When Adams was approached at the school on Friday about the revocation of her certification, she deferred questions to her attorney, whom she would not identify by name. She took a reporter's contact information, and said she would pass it along to her attorney. As of Friday evening, the reporter had not received contact through either of two phone numbers, or an e-mail address, given to the principal.

Adams confirmed she is appealing the commission's decision.

In a written statement, Clayton County Public Schools Spokesman Charles White said the school system was in compliance with state statutes concerning the licenses of school principals.

"Every principal in the Clayton County school district is fully licensed," he said. "The principal in question has a valid license and will remain as principal of the school until further notice."

White said Adams has been the principal at Mundy's Mill High School since April 2007, and previously served as an assistant principal at the school for five years, dating back to 2002, when the school opened. She has been employed by Clayton County Schools since 1995, he said. According to the Professional Standards Commission's web site, Adams has been certified since 1991.

Gary Walker, the deputy executive secretary for the commission, said how Adams responded in March 2008 to the circulation of a cell phone video involving a female student, and two male students, all underage, was what led to the revocation of her certification. Walker said the video was not immediately confiscated, once it was found in possession of one of the students depicted in it, and that law enforcement and school system officials were not immediately made aware of the video's existence.

"They [the students] used a cell phone to make a movie of the young lady performing oral sex on the other students," Walker said. "What this is really about is, you have an administrator who saw it [the video], and allowed this to go on. That's really allowing the distribution of child pornography, which is a violation of our standards, and the law."

An investigator with Clayton County Public Schools went to the commission with the complaint against Adams on June 11, 2008, according to Walker.

The school system suspended Adams for 10 days without pay for not confiscating the video, and not notifying central office administrators and the parents of the students in the film in a timely manner, according to the PSC's probable cause case summary.

Adams also faced the possibility of criminal charges of failure to report child abuse/sexual abuse, and second degree cruelty to children last year, when a Clayton County Police Department detective filed an arrest warrant application in Clayton County Magistrate Court.

Court records show Magistrate Court Judge Richard Brown denied the warrant application against Adams. The PSC's case summary states that a similar warrant application was filed against an assistant principal, who allegedly told Adams about the video, but it, too, was denied in Magistrate Court.

The female involved in the incident was a special needs child, while the male students were alleged members of the Murk Mob gang, Clayton County Police Detective Joanne Southerland wrote in a warrant application filed against Adams on April 7, 2008. Southerland also wrote that the video was posted on YouTube.com by an unknown person.

In the warrant application, Southerland said the video was made at a residence, but did not specify whose residence.

According to the warrant application, and the Professional Standards Commission's probable cause case summary, Adams was made aware of the tape's existence on March 24, 2008 by Assistant Principal Shakira Rice. Rice was shown the video by one of the male students in the video, and she told him to erase the video, but did not confiscate the cell phone, according to documents in the case. The student did not erase the video, according to the PSC's case summary.

During a March 27, 2008 meeting between Adams and the parents of the female shown in the video, the male student who had previously shown the film to Rice, was called in to show the video to the female's parents, according to the PSC's case summary and the warrant application. The cell phone was then returned to the male and he was instructed by Rice to erase the film, according to both sets of documents.

Southerland stated in the warrant application that Adams contacted Clayton County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent of High Schools Derrick Manning that evening to inform him of the situation. Manning told the principal to confiscate the video, but he did not tell her to call the police, according to the warrant application.

In the warrant application, Southerland said Manning later told the detective, "They should have reported it and they did a lot of things wrong ..."

"The failure to act by Adams and Manning resulted in the videos depicting illegal sexual activity specific to three students at the Mundy's Mill High School being circulated around the school and to an undetermined amount of students," Southerland wrote in the warrant application. "The videos are not just videos, they are evidence of a crime scene, evidence of sexual abuse and child molestation."

In the warrant application, Southerland said the Clayton County Police Department was not made aware of the tape's existence until contacted by the parents of the female student on March 27, 2008.

"Pornography is pornography," PSC Deputy Executive Secretary Walker said. "They don't need to allow the distribution of it. The phone should have been confiscated, and the police should have been called sooner."

One of the male students, who was 16, pleaded guilty to statutory rape because the female was 15, and he was placed on probation, according to the PSC's case summary.

Walker said the commission has dealt with "less than 20 cases involving cell phone pornography in the last year and a half, to two years."

He said cases reported to the commission have ranged from the one involving Adams, to a teacher photographing his genitals with his cell phone camera and "accidentally" sending it to co-workers, to teachers asking students to take nude pictures of themselves and send them to the educators.

"Cell phone pornography is a fairly new issue ... but it's an issue that's growing," Walker said. He said any appeal of the commission's decision would have to be handled in Clayton County Superior Court. "Officially, her certification is revoked" until the appeal has been filed, Walker said. No record of an appeal being filed could be found Friday afternoon in online Superior Court records.

If Adams is unsuccessful in her attempts to appeal the commission's decision, she will have to wait three years before she can apply for re-certification, Walker said. The revocation of her certification will also follow her if she attempts to seek a job in education in another state. "When we revoke a teacher's certification, that information is entered into a nationwide database, so, if she tried to get a job in Nevada, or California, or Mississippi, or Louisiana, or anywhere else, the fact that her certification has been revoked in Georgia will come up," Walker said.

Information on what, if any, actions are being taken by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission against Rice and Manning was not available on Friday.