DeKalb teacher says incorrect narrative led to her dismissal

A teacher who came under fire after DeKalb County School District officials said they were unaware she was accused of physically abusing students at an Ohio school district is gone.

Sandra Meeks-Speller said Friday in a meeting with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she was disappointed that what she calls an inaccurate narrative about her career in Ohio cost her a job in Georgia.

“If I were the person (people are) finding on the internet … I would have been charged,” she said. “And the people that are supportive of me would not have continued to support me.”

Meeks-Speller, 45, said district officials allowed her to resign her position recently. She had been hired by the DeKalb County School District this summer after working two years for Columbus City Schools in Columbus, Ohio. She was placed on administrative leave Oct. 10, a week after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution requested Meeks-Speller’s personnel file and divulged information found in an online search.

District officials admitted recently that simple functions of a background check, including checking references and verifying work history on an applicant’s resume or application, don’t always happen.

Officials at Toledo Public Schools in Ohio said Meeks-Speller was terminated in 2013 for several infractions including physically assaulting students, including twisting their arms, putting them in a headlock, and pushing them against walls. Once, according to court records, she asked a male student whether he was on his period.

A referee appointed by the Ohio Department of Education recommended overturning the termination, saying administrators in a white-dominated bureaucracy were working against Meeks-Speller and district officials had not proven the level of misconduct suggested. The court did not agree. She appealed the termination to the Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed with previous decisions to uphold her termination.

Meeks-Speller said Lucas County Children Services never contacted her about an investigations into alleged wrongdoing.

“There was no investigation,” she said. “Not one parent filed a charge against me.”

Toledo Public Schools spokeswoman Patty Mazur recently said her district contacted Lucas County Children Services and the Ohio Department of Education about Meeks-Speller. District officials provided to the Ohio Department of Education a misconduct code reflective of Meeks-Speller’s violations, Mazur said.

“We do not always hear back,” Mazur said.

According to Ohio Department of Education records online, Meeks-Speller is still licensed to teach in the state, though Toledo Public Schools officials say they referred her case to state officials.

“We’re not able to confirm or deny any investigations,” Ohio Department of Education spokesman Toby Lichtle said. “We’re only allowed to confirm discipline records.”

No discipline records exist on Meeks-Speller’s Ohio Department of Education profile.

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