VOL. 132 | NO. 126 | Monday, June 26, 2017
Attorneys in SCS Investigation Define Structure of Probe, Seek Information
By Bill Dries
Allegations of a cover-up, sexual harassment, theft and widespread grade tampering have been made by former Trezevant High School principal Ronnie Mackin. (The Daily News/Bill Dries)
The attorneys investigating allegations of grade changing, corruption, intimidation and other misconduct within the Shelby County Schools system have set up a hotline and email account for information on the allegations.
They’ve also defined how they will go about their investigation.
The allegations made in the June resignation letter of Trezevant High School principal Ronnie Mackin cover a lot of ground. SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson appointed a trio of attorneys to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations.
The group, led by former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton of the Butler Snow law firm, announced Thursday, June 22, a hotline at 901-680-7277 and an email address of SCSInvestigations@butlersnow.com for “any person in possession of such information.”
Stanton is joined in the investigation by former federal prosecutor and FBI agent Scott Newton of Baker Donelson and Paul Lancaster Adams of Ogletree Deakins, a former deputy general counsel for Microsoft Corp. and a fellow of the College of Labor and Employment lawyers.
Newton is investigating allegations of kickbacks to teachers and school system staff. Adams is investigating allegations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
Stanton is leading the overall investigation.
Stanton and Newton have broad authority in conducting the investigation and making recommendations to Hopson, the school board and anyone else they deem necessary outside of the school system.
Adams has similar broad authority, but his work is considered attorney work product because it involves potential civil litigation.
Mackin reported a discrepancy in grade transcripts and other academic records for some Trezevant students shortly after becoming principal of the high school in Frayser late last year. The school system’s response was to express confidence in Mackin, suspend Trezevant football coach Teli White and announce the school’s football team would forfeit three games. The Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association did not take any further action. White becomes the football coach at Melrose High School next school year.
SCS has continued its own separate investigation, working with state education officials in what is now an audit of grade transcripts at all high schools in the system.
But school board members said earlier this month they weren’t aware that the investigation of the grade discrepancies was still underway until Hopson told them earlier this month.
Hopson confirmed that the report of grade discrepancies late last year by Mackin was true and that a school attendance office employee was allowed to resign as a result. The students with changed grades had their grades changed back by the school system.
“We were only able to document one person although we thought there probably had to be more,” Hopson said of the results of the investigation at Trezevant immediately following Mackin’s claims.
A month after that, Hopson said there was another allegation of grade changing at another school and that’s when he called state education officials prompting the audit.
The school system decided to replace Mackin as principal at Trezevant after one school year at the helm. That prompted Mackin to resign, and he did so with a six-page letter that made broader allegations on several fronts involving teachers, school system officials and other schools.
Shelby County commissioner Terry Roland said last week he is considering asking the U.S. Justice Department to investigate Mackin’s allegations.
“What I’ve seen has been criminal,” Roland said during the commission’s discussion Wednesday, June 21, of the request to end Justice Department oversight of Juvenile Court. “If you want to know where some wrong doing is, it’s in the school system.”