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Coach's case to go before commission

LAWRENCEVILLE - Despite an investigation attributing his behavior at the school prom to prescription medication, Parkview High School Coach Cecil Flowe could still face more consequences, such as a possible suspension or revocation of his teaching certification.

Next month, Flowe's case will go before the ethics division of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, which handles the certification, professional discipline and recruitment of educators. His behavior at the May 6 prom fueled speculation among parents and students that he may have been drinking prior to serving as a faculty chaperone.

Gary Walker, the commission's director of educator ethics, said the most serious possible consequence is a license revocation, which isn't very common. Out of more than 2,500 cases the commission heard in 2005, 140 eventually led to revocations and 206 led to suspensions. The whole process can take more than a year. Other possibilities include warnings, reprimands or no recommended action.

"We don't predetermine anything. Sometimes we find something. Sometimes we find there is nothing. Until we get the information back, we do not make any determinations about what should happen," Walker said.

After interviewing faculty members, administrators and students, school system officials found that there was no conclusive evidence Flowe was under the influence of alcohol. He has a documented history of kidney stones, which was supported by a physician's note.

But that may not be enough to exonerate Flowe. In his written reprimand last week, Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks condemned his actions whether they were caused by prescription medicine or by alcohol.

"You have attributed your erratic behavior to prescription medications for a medical condition," Wilbanks wrote. "While this may have been the case, you have conceded that you should not have attended the school function having taken the medication.

School system officials investigated Flowe's behavior based on his possible violations of two standards of the Code of Ethics for Educators. This is the same code the commission will use in deciding whether to continue investigating his case.

Standard 3 of the code prohibits educators from being under the influence of alcohol at school functions. Another standard, which could be a more serious consideration for Flowe, says educators must act in a professional manner when performing their duties.

"Unethical conduct is any conduct that impairs the certificate holder's ability to function professionally in his or her employment position or a pattern of behavior or conduct that is detrimental to the health, welfare, discipline, or morals of students," the code reads.

The standards for educators are the same whether they are English teachers or successful football coaches like Flowe, who has helped lead Parkview to four state titles, according to Sloan Roach, spokeswoman for the school system.

"If you're hired by the school system and you're working at a school, then you have a teaching certification," Roach said. "The code of ethics for educators applies whether you're a principal, assistant principal, teacher, coach or local school technology coordinator."

Interviews with students and faculty members revealed in the investigation that Flowe was acting out of character. Though officials concluded that alcohol was not the cause, the report did say that he admitted he should not not have attended the prom under the medication, and "expressed extreme remorse."

"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 improper comment about two students dancing; that he appeared to be intoxicated; that he was acting goofy; that he was dancing with students; and that this behavior were uncharacteristic of Mr. Flowe," the report said.

During its meeting on June 8, the agency will decide whether to further investigate the situation. It could take several months for them to conduct it.

Today is the last day Flowe can appeal Wilbanks' letter of reprimand to the Gwinnett Board of Education. If he chooses to appeal it, he will have a hearing before the school board, who would decide whether or not to keep it in his personnel file. If he doesn't appeal, it will remain there.

"From the school system's standpoint, we have closed our investigation and have done everything we're going to do on this matter," Roach said.

Calls to Flowe had not been returned as of press time Thursday. The Parkview administration referred all calls on the matter to the school system's spokeswoman.