Tribunal recommends suspension for accused cheater

JONESBORO — A three-member panel has ruled against dismissing a teacher who was accused of helping her students cheat on a test.

Carmen Royster appeared in a Clayton County Public Schools employment hearing Sept. 19 to dispute allegations of misconduct during the April 17 administration of the state’s 2013 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests. She teaches special needs students at Eddie White Academy.

Several witnesses including three different eyewitnesses testified they believed Royster acted inappropriately in giving the “read-to” test to her students, saying she read questions and answer choices with voice inflections and hand gestures that could tip off students to the correct answers.

Attorney Winston Denmark represented the district, arguing on behalf of Superintendent Luvenia Jackson’s recommendation to dismiss Royster. He said the teacher “suggested answers” and gave “verbal affirmation” of correct choices.

District spokesman Charles White said the tribunal offered an alternative suggestion.

“Instead of following the recommendation of the superintendent, the tribunal has recommended a 10-day suspension without pay,” White said. “This recommendation will go to the board of education for its determination.”

Royster’s attorney, Steven Frey of Frey Law Firm in Jonesboro, said his client was happy with the decision.

“She’s extremely pleased and ready to get back to work,” Frey said. “Obviously, we would have liked for her to be put right back to work. But anytime the tribunal doesn’t go with the recommendation of the superintendent, you have to consider that a victory.”

Royster has been on both paid leave and unpaid leave since the superintendent’s initial recommendation, Frey added. He said he hopes officials will make the suspension retroactive, should they agree with the tribunal’s recommendation.

The tribunal panel included Phyllis Levert, Shirley Kilgore and Joseph Scott with Stephanie Banks presiding over the hearing.