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Sunday, May 26, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Eight Get Jail Time|in Atlanta Cheating Case

ATLANTA (CN) - Three former administrators of the Atlanta Public Schools system received 7-year jail sentences Tuesday for their roles in a widespread cheating scandal.

The administrators were also told they will serve 13 years on probation once they are released, and that each of them must pay $25,000 in fines.

Five others, including testing coordinators, teachers and principals, received sentences of up to one year in prison and fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry W. Baxter reacted sharply when many in the courtroom began to sob when their loved ones were sentenced.

"Everyone starts crying about these educators," Baxter said. "But thousands of children were harmed by this thing."

On Monday, the judge had asked the defense and prosecutors to get together and try to make a deal in which the educators would admit their guilt and waive their right to appeal in return for lesser sentences.

By late Tuesday morning, only two of the convicted educators, Donald Bullock and Pamela Cleveland, agreed to go along with the deal, and in return, they were spared jail time. An 11th educator, Shani Robinson, recently had a baby and Baxter said her sentencing would be put off until summer.

The fact the majority of defendants refused to make a deal drew a sharp rebuke from the judge.

"All I was asking was for people to take responsibility for their actions and no one is taking responsibility that I can see," he said. On April 1, an Atlanta jury convicted 11 former educators of racketeering charges, acquitting only one of the defendants in the case of all charges. Baxter immediately ordered the convicted teachers and administrators to jail, saying they'd made their bed "and they're going to have to lie in it."

Each educator faces up to twenty years on felony racketeering convictions, but continues to await sentencing while the court struggles for an appropriate punishment.

Prosecutors accused the educators of conspiring to inflate test scores in struggling Atlanta Public Schools for personal and professional benefits while consequently depriving students of educational benefits.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution exposed the questionable activity in 2009 by publishing articles regarding the significant changes in test scores being reported by the schools.

Although a state investigation led to the indictment of 35 educators, only a dozen chose to stand trial. The conspiracy was alleged to have been orchestrated by former Atlanta School Superintendent Beverly Hall, who was battling stage four cancer when the indictments were handed down, and was later deemed too ill to stand trial.

She died this winter before her former subordinates were convicted.

Fulton County District Attorney, Paul Howard, said in court on Monday that the defendants' acknowledgment of responsibility would be crucial to the deal.

The parties were scheduled to return to court Tuesday morning.

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