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Beverly Hall, 34 others indicted in APS cheating scandal | Education

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Beverly Hall, 34 others indicted in APS cheating scandal

ATLANTA -- Former Atlanta Public School Superintendent Beverly Hall and 34 others face charges that include racketeering, theft by taking, influencing witnesses and making false statements.

The educators were indicted by a grand jury. The 90 page indictment was released late Friday afternoon. Hall's name is at the top of the list of defendants. 

INDICTMENT SUMMARY | Read the details of APS indictments

The cheating scandal is one of the largest in the nation.  

FULL INDICTMENT | Read official grand jury indictment

Overall charges in the indictment include racketerring, theft by taking, false statements and writings, influencing witnesses and false swearing.

Other names in the indictment include Millicent Few, Sharon Davis-Williams, Tamara Cotman, Michael Pitts, Christopher Waller, Gregory Reid, Sandra Ward, Starlette Mitchell, Kimberly Oden, Armstead Salters, Sheridan Rogers, Dana Evans, Angela Williamson, Derrick Broadwater, Shayla Smith, Dessa Curb, Lera Middlebrooks, Shani Robinson, Pamela Cleveland, Diane Buckher- Webb, Gloria Ivey, Lisa Terry, Ingrid Abella-Sly, Wendy Ahmed, Lucious Brown, Carol Dennis, Tameka Goodson, Tabeeka Jordan, Clarietta DAvis, Donald Bullock, Theresia Copeland, Sheila Evans, Willie Davenport and Francis Mack.

EXTENDED VIDEO: APS indictments press conference

A state investigation in 2011 found cheating on standardized tests by nearly 180 educators in 44 Atlanta schools. Investigators said educators gave answers to students or changed answers on tests after they were turned in. Investigators say teachers who tried to report the cheating faced retaliation, creating a culture of fear and intimidation among employees in the district.

APS CRCT Cheating 2011 Investigation Reports:

Most of the 178 educators named in a special investigators' report resigned, retired, did not have their contracts renewed or appealed their dismissals and lost. Twenty-one educators have been reinstated and three await hearings to appeal their dismissals, said Atlanta Public Schools spokesman Stephen Alford.

Alford, the schools spokesman, said the district was moving on from the scandal. 

"This is a legal matter between the individuals implicated and the Fulton County District Attorney's office, and we will allow the legal process to take its course," he said before the indictment was announced. "Our focus is on providing a quality education to all of our students and supporting the 6,000 employees who come to work each day and make sound decisions about educating our students."

Mayor Kasim Reed released a statement saying the city would get though his challenge and that he would continue to educate the children of the city. 

"This has been a very difficult process for our city's public schools. But right now, we need to allow the judicial process to proceed and focus on what matters most --- the young people in our city's classrooms who deserve a quality education and the unwavering support of their teachers and administrators. As a city, we will get through this challenge and continue the vital business of educating our children so they can grow up to be confident, responsible and productive members of our city and nation."

And State School Superintendent John Barge released a statement saying: 

"While these educators have not been found guilty of a crime, the indictments should serve as a warning that test security should continue to be a top priority for educators in every school. No matter what happens in the courts, our children are the ones who will pay for the cloud cast by this cheating investigation. Now that this issue is in the hands of the District Attorney, we will all be watching closely to see the outcome."

Hall retired just days before the 2011 probe was released. She has previously denied the allegations.

The Georgia Professional Standards Commission is responsible for licensing teachers and has been going through the complaints against teachers, said commission executive secretary Kelly Henson. 

The commission considers cases as they are released from the district attorney's office. By Wednesday, they had received all but 26, Henson said. 

The commission waits for the district attorneys before taking action on those cases because there is likely evidence that will be useful for the commission's own investigation. 

"It is very routine for us to work with the DA's office and say we're not going to step on each other's toes and we'll work around their schedule," Henson said. 

It's common for educators to receive professional sanctions from the commission but not be charged, Henson said. The commission only requires a finding of guilt based on good evidence of wrongdoing, while criminal prosecutions require guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Of the 159 cases that the commission already reviewed, 44 resulted in license revocations, 100 got two-year suspensions and nine were suspended for less than two years, Henson said. No action was taken against six of the educators.

In a Friday afternoon news conference Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said the grand jury investigation has gone on for 21 months. 

APS interim superintendent Errol Davis said the school system has an obligation to students, teachers and employees to allow the legal process to take its course. He says the focus of he and his staff is to provide a quality education for students in the Atlanta school system. 

Davis said the system will renew its commitment to the public, and that part of that is the establishment of stronger meaures. The system now requires educators take an annual ethics course, plus there are improved safeguards within the school system in regards to test materials.

"We will continue to focus on our students," Davis said.

If convicted, Hall would face 45 years in prison. Howard said the grand jury recommended a bond of $7.5 million for Beverly Hall. Howard is asking those named in the indictment to turn themselves in early next week.

"We ask that attorneys and defendants will turn themselves in at the Fulton County Jail on April 2," Howard said. 

Continuing Coverage of APS Cheating:

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