State Department hopeful school investigation is nearing end

Published 6:43pm Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The investigation of Selma City Schools regarding numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, led by the Alabama State Department of Education, is continuing to make progress and could be completed in a matter of weeks.

Supervising the investigation on behalf of State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice is Dr. Craig Pouncey, chief of staff of the Alabama State Department of Education. Pouncey said the internal investigation regarding allegations implicating sufficient risks to the welfare of Selma students, may be soon coming to a close.

“We’re hoping within the next week or two we’ll kind of have things wrapped up,” Pouncey said. “But we want to make sure we have done our due diligence in looking at everything, so that we can reassure parents that when school starts, their students and their children will have a safe and nurturing school environment with which to attend.”

Bice notified Selma City Schools Superintendent Gerald Shirley and members of the Selma City School Board of Education in a letter dated June 13 that the state department was looking into allegations of inappropriate sexual activity involving Selma City School employees and students during school hours, at school-sponsored events and on school property.

Pouncey said there have been several of the allegations, many of which have not been substantiated, but noted there are a few concerns the department’s investigators are still trying to validate.

“There are some that we are very concerned about,” Pouncey said of allegations under investigation. “And (we) are trying to do our due diligence in determining whether they are valid allegations or not.”

The letter from the state superintendent came after his office received numerous reports and expressions of concern about improper and perhaps illegal activity allegedly occurring within the Selma City School System, in addition to the April arrest of Selma High School teacher LaTanglia Williams, 37, on charges accusing her of sexual misconduct with a student.

“Specifically, our target is not Miss Williams,” Pouncey said, noting the district attorney and Selma Police Department are working on separate investigations on that particular case. “We’re focused on a number of other allegations that have be circulating in the community. There could actually be a broader review then just singling one person.”

While investigators have been looking into every possible avenue, Pouncey said the cooperation of the parents and Selma community members has been a huge asset.

“They’ve been willing to call and share information and we’ve not excluded anything,” he said. “We’ve looked through all of the allegations.”

Pouncey added if residents have any information that could aid in the investigation, they can still contact the State Department of Education’s chief lawyer, Larry Craven at (334) 242-1899. He emphasized that any information shared with Craven would remain strictly confidential.

Shirley said the school system is also offering their full cooperation for the investigation.

Pouncey said if investigators determine any negligence on the part of a school employee it will be forwarded to the department for consideration for action against someone’s teaching certificate.

The state superintendent has the responsibility and the authority to suspend or revoke someone’s teaching license, Pouncey said, noting that based on the outcome of the current investigations, “there may be some further investigations.”

Bice said he planned to meet with Selma City School officials when the report was complete.

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