Atlanta Public School Cheating Scandal Federal Trial Continues

Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal Continues Federal Trial

Atlanta Public School Cheating ScandalIn April 2013, 35 educators were to report to the Fulton County Jail after being indicted as major players in the now infamous Atlanta Public School Cheating Scandal. A year later, 12 of those suspects in the Atlanta Public School Cheating Scandal have gone to court on federal racketeering charges.

For at least four years – 2005 to 2009 – educators across Atlanta altered test scores and answers on standardized tests to make the school district appear to rapidly improve. At the center of the Atlanta cheating scandal was school superintendent Beverly Hall, who was named National Superintendent of the Year in 2009 for the incredible improvements in her urban school district. School administrators, particularly Ms. Hall, began to put pressure on teachers and test administrators to change students’ test scores to meet federal guidelines and get more grant money from the US government. Some teachers said they were offered bribes in the form of bonuses, and that if they did not comply, they would be fired.

In 2011, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported suspicions of cheating in a series of articles, which made the urban school district appear to make rapid and impressive improvements on national test scores. The reports launched a state investigation into Hall’s school district, which uncovered an incredible ring of cheating that occurred at 44 Atlanta schools, perpetrated by 178 educators, including 38 principals.

So far, 21 defendants have been offered plea deals and will likely testify during the federal racketeering charges case.

The indictment against Hall and others alleges that she “created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation.” However, Hall’s federal racketeering charges trial specifically was delayed indefinitely because advanced breast cancer has left her too ill to attend court proceedings.

Testimony in the Atlanta Public School Cheating Scandal federal trial stated that teachers repeatedly ignored reports of cheating as early as 3 years before the investigation into the possible racketeering case began. However, Ms. Hall, along with codefendant Michael Pitts, deny they ever received reports of cheating at Atlanta Public Schools.

“I told them they cheated on the exam,” private investigator Reginald Dukes testified. “Also at that meeting, I told that I had some unsubstantiated information about preparation for cheating on the 2006 CRCT. That they were going to cheat on that also, they had made plans to do it.”

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Dukes said. “I was anticipating them saying more to me about what I found at the time. Asking me more questions about what they had found out. You know, because I thought it was pretty serious.”

Hall and Pitts deny that the meeting with Dukes ever took place.

Fifth Grade teacher Betty Peaks also testified, on Day 12 of the federal racketeering trial. She was a veteran teacher at the Deerwood Academy until 2007-2008. She testified that her students performed at least 3 to 4 years behind where they should have been performing.

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Being arrested or investigated for a federal crime, such as fraud, conspiracy, or racketeering, can mean many things. What it does not mean is that you are guilty or that you have no rights. For an experienced criminal defense attorney who will fight for your rights and work to have your charges reduced or even dismissed, contact the federal criminal defense attorney at the Strom Law Firm, today for a no cost consultation to discuss our experience and knowledge of the system can help you. 803.252.4800