For those who are angered or relieved at the punishment handed out to a principal and assistant principal in the case of a substitute teacher accused of improperly touching students, keep one thing in mind: This isn't over yet.
Columbia County School Superintendent Tommy Price announced Friday that Riverside Elementary Principal Jeannie Hill will be demoted and have her pay frozen, and Brookwood Elementary Assistant Principal Barbara Glietsmann has been reprimanded and suspended.
At first glance, the punishments don't look like much: Hill gets the same pay in return for less responsibility, and Gleitsman gets a slap on the wrist. All this for violating a school policy that requires personnel who receive reports of possible abuses or molestation to immediately call Columbia County's Department of Family and Children Services or law enforcement.
One of the more puzzling aspects of this much-discussed case is how the internal discipline could stop with these two administrators. It's pretty clear the two, especially Hill, treated the reports from young girls who made the accusations against the substitute as a personnel issue. In fact, rather than contact DFACS or deputies, Hill called the central office for advice on handling the case.
None of the central office staff, including Price, were mentioned in Friday's announcement as also having failed to make the required report to outside authorities. Yet if any of them were given the information about the alleged improper touching and didn't see to it that DFACS was called, they've also violated not only school policy but possibly state law.
And that's where the plot really thickens. The school system can levy any punishment as the School Board sees fit for violations of its own policies. But state law is a different matter, and the administrators and those in the central office who failed to report these accusations may still have to answer in court.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to pursue misdemeanor charges against those who failed to make the legally required reports will come to the sheriff's office. For those officials, here's a little unsolicited advice:
The law requiring DFACS or law-enforcement notification, while long and detailed, is pretty clearly written - and in this case, it's backed up by a school policy. If the school policy was violated, state law likely was violated, too. That state law is intended to ensure that caregivers don't allow suspicions or accusations of abuse to be swept under the rug; if there is any meaning to it at all, then this case demands criminal investigation.
Jeannie Hill and Barbara Glietsmann are fine administrators with exemplary records of service to the children of Columbia County. The county's central office staff also work diligently to run a fast-growing school system that each day serves more than 20,000 students.
All of this should be taken into account - if and when a judge decides on punishment.
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