Commission to investigate Flowe

ATLANTA - The Georgia Professional Standards Commission voted unanimously Thursday to pursue an investigation into the alleged erratic behavior of Parkview High School coach Cecil Flowe at the school's prom.

The state agency, responsible for the preparation and certification of Georgia educators, will launch an investigation this summer to help determine if Flowe was in violation of the Code of Ethics for Educators.

His behavior at the May 6 Parkview prom led some teachers and students to speculate that Flowe had been drinking prior to serving as a faculty chaperone. A school system investigation determined his actions could be attributed to prescription medication he took for a pre-existing condition.

If the commission decides Flowe violated the code, possible consequences for him are a reprimand, a warning, a suspension or, in the most extreme case, the revocation of his teaching license.

Commissioners vote to investigate in 60 to 65 percent of cases brought before them, according to Gary Walker, the agency's director of educator ethics. They made their decision on Flowe's case along with more than 70 others on Thursday morning.

"The only time we don't investigate something is if there has been a criminal case and they have been found not guilty," Walker said. "And a lot of the times we don't investigate when we have all the information commissioners need on it. In a lot of high profile cases, we choose to investigate."

The whole process could take a year or longer, Walker said. He has seen cases be decided in a few months or take as long as four years.

In their decision, commissioners followed the recommendation of the ethics committee, which unanimously decided Wednesday to investigate Flowe's situation. To ensure their decisions are unbiased, commissioners are not told the names, schools or districts of any of the educators.

"They don't know who they're talking about or anything else unless they get it from a local story," Walker said.

In 2005, the commission investigated 786 cases. Of those, no probable cause was found in 21 percent of cases. Fifteen percent resulted in warnings, 19 percent in reprimands and 26 percent in suspensions. The commission decided to revoke the teaching licenses of 14 percent of investigated educators. In 3 percent of cases, the educators voluntarily forfeited their license.

The school system did its own investigation into Flowe's behavior last month after several Parkview teachers and parents reported he was acting out of character at the prom on May 6 at the Crowne Point Ravinia Hotel in Atlanta.

School system officials interviewed teachers, parents, students, administrators and Flowe himself before submitting their completed report to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.

"The reports from those who observed Mr. Flowe at the prom seem to focus on his erratic and uncharacteristic behaviors including the fact that he was urging students to dance closer together; that he made an inappropriate comment about two students dancing; that he appeared to be intoxicated; that he was acting goofy; that he was dancing with the students; and that these behaviors were uncharacteristic of Mr. Flowe," the report summarized.

Prior to the investigation, Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks wrote a letter of reprimand condemning Flowe's behavior. Flowe had the option to appeal the letter to the Gwinnett Board of Education but did not choose to do that by the deadline. The letter will remain in his permanent personnel file.

The school system found Flowe in possible violation of two standards of the Code of Ethics for Educators. These are the same standards the Georgia Professional Standards Commission will use in its investigation.

Standard 3 of the code forbids the use of alcohol or illegal or unauthorized drugs by educators while on school premises or at a school-related activity. Standard 10 stipulates that "an educator should demonstrate conduct that follows generally recognized professional standards." Unethical conduct is defined as any that is "detrimental to the health, welfare, discipline or morals of students."

The administration of Parkview High School referred all calls on the matter to Sloan Roach, spokeswoman for Gwinnett County Public Schools. Calls to Flowe for comment had not been returned as of press time Thursday.

Roach said the school system has closed its investigation into the matter and that the Georgia Professional Standards Commission will independently conduct its own.

"Gwinnett County Public Schools will cooperate by answering any follow-up questions the PSC investigators might have. The school system, in submitting the case to the PSC, already has provided its investigation info," Roach said.