ATLANTA -- The Fulton County district attorney won't file criminal charges against a first batch of teachers implicated in the Atlanta school district's cheating scandal, meaning the district can move forward with the process of firing them, Superintendent Erroll Davis said Friday.
The prosecutor's office told the school district this week that five educators have been cleared in the ongoing criminal investigation, out of almost 180 accused in the investigation that began in August 2010. Three of the five are still on the payroll, Davis said.
Some of the teachers have resigned or retired, but 120 remain employed because the district can't move forward with due process hearings until the district attorney rules on whether to file charges in each case.
Atlanta is spending $600,000 per month paying for administrative leave for the educators six months after a state investigation revealed cheating in nearly half of the district's 100 schools.
"The district is sensitive to the fact this is costing us," Davis said in a phone interview.
with The Associated Press.
Davis declined to release the five names he was given.
A spokeswoman for the district attorney's office declined comment because of the ongoing investigation.
Parent James Palmer, whose son is a kindergartener at Parkside Elementary School near downtown, said he hopes that teachers and principals caught up in the scandal are gone from the district soon. He said while he understands due process is important, parents don't like seeing educators sitting at home and collecting a paycheck.
"If this means there are going to be some heads rolling as a result, I think that's fantastic news," Palmer said. "As much as I hate what happened and as much as I abhor the cheating and I want to see people pay, I do feel like they do deserve, under the law, every opportunity to defend themselves. Is it money well spent? Am I happy money is being spent that way? No."
In July, state investigators revealed test tampering on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, though some educators admitted to cheating for years. Teachers gave students answers, arranged their seats so they could copy off higher-performing classmates and changed answer sheets once students turned them in, investigators found.
Educators accused in the probe said they were under immense pressure to improve students' scores by any means possible amid a culture of "fear and retaliation," investigators said. Teachers who reported the cheating to administrators were punished or fired, investigators found.
Criminal investigations into the allegations are under way in three counties, including Fulton. So far, eight teachers and three school administrators have lost their teaching licenses, though the state's teacher certification commission has halted its investigations until the criminal probes are complete.
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