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Assistant principal serving suspension in video incident

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Mundy's Mill High School Assistant Principal Shakira Rice is scheduled to complete her Georgia Professional Standards Commission-issued suspension -- nearly a month from now -- for allegedly not confiscating a copy of a video of three students engaged in sexual acts, when she had an opportunity to do so.

Rice received a three-month suspension of her certification from the commission on July 17, with the ending date for the suspension set for Oct. 17.

Clayton County Public Schools Spokesman Charles White said Rice is not working at the school right now, because of the suspension of her certification. He would not say if Rice is being paid while she is on suspension.

"Clayton County Public Schools abides by the PSC's code of ethics, in that, when a person is suspended, they cannot work in any capacity," he said.

Rice is serving her suspension while her supervisor, Mundy's Mill High School Principal Priscilla Adams, continued to report to work after her own certification was revoked on Sept. 10.

As recently as Monday, Mundy's Mill High School staff said Adams was at work when calls were placed to the school to speak with her. Last Friday, the school system issued a written statement saying she would remain in her post "until further notice," because of the possibility of an appeal being filed.

Adams' attorney, George Lawson, Jr., said he will file an appeal of the decision to revoke her educator's certification today in Fulton County Superior Court, since the Professional Standards Commission is based in Atlanta.

Lawson declined to comment on the case, referring all questions to the yet-to-be-filed appeal document.

At issue in the cases of both Rice and Adams is how they handled a situation in March 2008, when a cell phone video of a female student performing sexual acts on two male students was being circulated among students.

Rice allegedly reported to Adams, on March 24, 2008, that she had confirmed rumors that the cell phone video existed, according to the transcript from an April 21 administrative law hearing on the matter.

Rice allegedly viewed a video -- on the cell phone of one of the male students involved -- of the then-15-year-old female performing oral sex on two male students. She told the student to delete the video from his cell phone, rather than confiscating it, according to the hearing transcript.

During the hearing, Rice testified: "I asked him to delete the images from the phone, and at that time, I thought they were deleted, they were gone, because it was something inappropriate," according to the hearing transcript. "So, at the time, I figured that is was the equivalent to taking it up, because it was a video. When I asked him to delete it, that was equivalent to taking up something that was tangible."

Rice's punishment is not as severe as the one issued to Adams, whose certification was revoked on Sept. 10, for allegedly not immediately reporting the fact that the video had been made, to law enforcement officials, or to Derrick Manning, who at the time was the assistant superintendent of high schools.

"She was suspended because she did not confiscate the cell phone, but she did what she was supposed to do in regards to reporting the matter," PSC Deputy Executive Secretary Gary Walker said. "The sanction for her was less severe because the commission determined that she did make a report to the building administrator."

Walker said any educator, who is serving his or her suspension, is not allowed to be paid during that time.

School System Spokesman White said Rice has been employed by the school system since 2000, when she began working at Mt. Zion High School as a special education teacher. She moved to Mundy's Mill High School in 2004 to take a similar position, and became an assistant principal at the school in 2006, White said.

According to a copy of Clayton County Public Schools' job description for the position, an assistant principal's duties include carrying out the duties of the school's principal in his or her absence; assuming duties delegated to him or her by the principal, and helping the principal maintain school facilities, prepare reports and supervise the school's employees and students, and instructional programs.

At Mundy's Mill High School, Rice has organized the school's two Flint River Road cleanup projects, which are performed each January on the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday.

Rice's attorney, Angela Johnson, could not be reached for comment at a phone number provided by the PSC.

The commission had originally issued one-year suspensions to Rice and Adams, but both educators appealed that decision, Walker said. He said that as part of the appeals process for PSC decisions, the case was sent to a state administrative law judge, and the state attorney general's office investigated the matter and defended the commission's decision.

Following an appeals hearing in April, Assistant Attorney General Ann Brumbaugh reached a negotiated consent order with Johnson to get Rice to serve a three-month suspension, Walker said. "The attorney general's office based that on the fact that she [Rice] did report the video's existence to her principal," he added.

White said he was not allowed to comment on what disciplinary actions the school system took against Rice, because it is a personnel matter. But, he added, "The district followed appropriate procedures concerning the matter."

Walker said the administrative law judge upheld the original one-year suspension for Adams, but she appealed that decision for the commission to review. He said the commission members, mostly educators themselves, reviewed the 324-page transcript from the hearing, which included more details about what happened, and decided the revocation of her certification was a more appropriate punishment for the principal.