Ex-DeKalb teacher claims he lost job for reporting wrongdoing

A former DeKalb County teacher has filed a lawsuit against the district claiming he was dismissed from his teaching job after reporting misconduct at his school.

The civil lawsuit was filed on behalf of Christopher Jones, 48, a first-year teacher for the district, in DeKalb Superior Court against the DeKalb County School District. It seeks his reinstatement as a teacher with full benefits, any missed pay with interest and monetary damages for mental and emotional stress, deprivation of whistleblower rights and attorney fees.

Jones said he was placed on administrative leave in January after reporting to police that a parent lunged at him and threatened him. Prior to that, he said, he shared information with Superintendent Steve Green, DeKalb Board of Education member Vickie Turner and the Office of Legal Affairs about Pine Ridge Elementary staff using supplies purchased by DonorsChoose.org, where educators submit wish lists for classroom materials.

Efforts to reach Turner were not successful. District officials promised but did not send a statement on the situation.

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Jones said he was placed in a classroom last August with a broken air conditioning unit and 39 fifth-graders with behavior problems. One student tried to poison him, he said, by pouring a substance into his coffee. Students also threw things at him and were never punished, he said.

He said he didn’t get a satisfactory resolution to his complaints at the school, so he then approached Turner. “She said if I cooperated, she would make sure I was covered, and I didn’t have to worry about retaliation,” he said.

He said he gave her information about the misappropriation allegations in January.

On Jan. 30, he was placed on leave. He later received a notice that his contract would not be renewed.

Chris Pearsall, vice president of communications for DonorsChoose.org, confirmed that the site has halted projects for the school while an investigation continues into claims that materials purchased by the site were being misused.

“We’ve notified the principal and are working with them to determine whether any materials are missing from the classroom, and that anything missing will be returned to the classroom,” Pearsall said.

Jones said he’s received offers from neighboring school districts, including Cobb County Schools and Clayton County Public Schools, but the offers were rescinded after his principal failed to send employment verification documents to the potential employers. He’s moving to China to teach because he said his 25-year education career has been permanently damaged in less than a year at DeKalb County School District.

“We want the DeKalb board to make things right not just for Mr. Jones,” said Julie Oinonen, Jones’ attorney, “but to make sure whistleblowers at DeKalb County Schools are protected from retaliation.”

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