School officials say a final decision on whether a Clayton County teacher will be terminated, for allegedly abusing special-needs students, will be made by the school system by the end of this week.
David Vollmer, a special-needs teacher at Adamson Middle School, and a veteran of 12 years, recently testified before a special tribunal, set up to hear accusations that he used mental cruelty toward students with profound disabilities. According to Winston Denmark, attorney for the school system, Vollmer also groped and tickled a male student’s private parts, destroyed a student’s art work, and followed a female student into the bathroom.
“This is a serious accusation; one that could destroy Vollmer’s career,” said Warren Fortson, Vollmer’s attorney. However, Fortson said the accusations against his client are false, and his client is innocent. “In 12 years, my client has had a spotless record,” said Fortson. “But during the hearing, we could not use that information in [Vollmer’s] defense.”
Denmark said the Clayton County District’s Attorney’s Office is now handling the investigation.
Vollmer is trained to work specifically with students who have severe disabilities, and some of the students are not verbal, Fortson said. He said his client’s accuser, Monique Hall, a paraprofessional in Vollmer’s class, reported the alleged abuse in November. He said Hall was new to the classroom, and she had only been working in that position for three days when she complained to school officials of Vollmer’s alleged rough treatment of students. She also told school officials that she witnessed Vollmer touching a boy's genitals while tucking in the student's shirt. According to media reports, in another alleged incident, Vollmer was allegedly observed on his knees in front of the male student, with [the student's] pants down.
However, Fortson said that Vollmer was not groping the male student. Rather, he was demonstrating to the student how to properly tuck in his shirt. “These students are the most difficult population to work with, they have to be taught how to do things [like tucking in a shirt] to get them trained,” he said.
“I don’t see how the school system can take the word of someone who had only been working in that position for a short time, versus someone [Vollmer] who is a veteran teacher,” said Fortson. “It’s like they took her [Hall’s] word and just ran with it.”
According to Fortson, Hall had not been trained to work with special-needs students and was allegedly caught sleeping on the job by Vollmer on several occasions. He added that Vollmer had taken a photo of Hall while she was sleeping in the classroom, but during a tribunal hearing, the hearing officer ruled that the photo could not be used in Vollmer’s defense.
When asked if Vollmer had ever reported Hall for sleeping while on the job, Fortson said Vollmer had made several complaints in the past against other school officials, but they were ignored, so he decided not to report Hall, for fear of retaliation.
Denmark said Vollmer was suspended by Clayton County Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley in November, following an investigation. When asked if complaints against Vollmer relating to alleged inappropriate behaviors with students were ever reported in the past, Denmark said that, according state law — the Georgia Fair Dismissal Act — school officials are not allowed to look at previous school years, only the current one.
“For all we know, Vollmer could have woke up one morning and decided to inappropriately touch students,” he said. “We don’t know what happened in past school years. We did not do a [psychological] evaluation on him,” said Denmark.
He said it is the recommendation of the superintendent that Vollmer be terminated from his position. “There should be a decision made at the end of the week,” said Denmark.
Fortson said he’s confident that Vollmer will not be terminated from his position. “He did a splendid job defending himself against the accusation. We just have to wait and see what the tribunal decides,” he said. “But the accusation is so serious that, if he ever decides to apply for another teaching position, in another school district, it’s likely he will not be hired — no matter what the decision might be.”