Lijit Audience Analytics

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Corruption In The RCBOE & The Broken Tribunal System

If you are a parent or high school student, particularly in Georgia, you need to read this. What you will find is quite shocking and appalling.

On Thursday, January 16th 2014, I had the displeasure of witnessing what could best be described as a legalized lynch mob or, better yet, witch hunt - an RCBOE (Richmond County Board of Education) tribunal. I feel it is my duty to reveal to public what goes on during tribunals, at least here in Georgia. Tribunals function under the pretense of serving justice and determine if disciplinary (and what degree of) action is necessary when students are found in violation of the elusive Code of Conduct. It promises to separate negative influences from student bodies. In execution, the tribunal serves to shield the Board of Education from legal action and rule in favor of educators, regardless of what evidence is provided.
According to the above-linked Greg Gelpi article from the Augusta Chronicle (2009), roughly 90% of all tribunals end in a guilty sentence. Veterans in law, education, and parenting all agree that it is not very likely that these rulings are right most of the time. It could be said that BOE (Board of Education) tribunals in Georgia merely seek to make examples of random students and scare everyone into playing by their rules, rather than doing what is truly just.
Here is the format and  [extremely] loose guidelines followed by the tribunal:
  • Parents/students receive a packet providing the tribunal date, the charges/allegations in question, and, if you're lucky, all written statement.
  • Students can be represented by parents, attorneys, or themselves.
  • Students can give testimonies but must stick to the "facts".
  • Only the designated representatives can question witnesses or speak during the proceedings.
  • Only family and witnesses can attend, with no exceptions.
  • Witnesses must be subpoenaed.
  • School records and "priors" are taken into account after testimonies are given.
  • All tribunal proceedings are recorded.
  • Appeals must be filed within a few days of any hearings.
Sadly, this system sets up students and their representatives for failure. According to parents and educators, written statements are often not provided until the day of the hearing though otherwise is falsely guaranteed. Participants are not made aware of the standards evidence must meet nor are they provided with links or copies to tribunal guidelines beyond the bare minimum. Thus, all evidence can be thrown out at the discretion of the tribunal. Much like everything else, those charged in the tribunals are at the mercy of the panel. What's worse is that the tribunal members are often very old, retired educators, so they are out of touch with the world around them, making decisions based almost exclusively upon old biases and ways.