Atlanta cheating scandal deepens as educators turn themselves in

ATLANTA – Former Atlanta educators embroiled in the public schools cheating scandal are starting to turn themselves in to authorities.

The 35 defendants, including Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall, gave a mandatory deadline to surrender at the Fulton County Jail by Tuesday.

It follows Fulton County Grand Jury indictments Friday against the suspects in connection with alleged cheating on standardized tests scores and covering up those accusations.

All the defendants face serious criminal charges, with the prospect of lengthy jail sentences if convicted.

Charges of conspiracy

The teachers, principals and administrators, are charged with Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) conspiracy. Other charges in the 65-count indictment include false statements and writings, false swearing, theft and influencing witnesses in connection with the alleged conspiracy to alter Criterion Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) scores.

A statement from the office of the Fulton County District Attorney said the defendants “conspired to either cheat, conceal cheating or retaliate against whistleblowers in an effort to bolster CRCT scores for the benefit of financial rewards associated with high test scores.”

According to early Tuesday morning reports, only a handful of educators have turned themselves in. So far, there’s been no sign of former APS Superintendent Beverly Hall.

Tameka Goodson, a former Kennedy Middle School teacher, turned herself in at the Fulton County Jail around 12:30 a.m. She is being held on a $200,000 bond.

Others listed in the indictment, including Donald Bullock, Theresia Copeland, Sandra Ward and Gregory Reid, also surrendered to police later in the day. Online jail records list the bonds for Bullock and Copeland at $1 million each. Some of the lawyers are openly criticizing the high bonds.

An investigation years in the making

The grand jury recommended a bond of $7.5 million for Beverly Hall. If convicted, she faces up to 45 years in prison.

The District Attorney’s 21-month criminal investigation follows a 2011 probe initiated by the Governor’s Office into testing irregularities and cheating allegations on 2008 – 2009 CRCT exams in dozens of Atlanta Public Elementary Schools.

The alleged activity dates back to as early as 2005 and took place in 58 of the Atlanta Public Schools.