Gwinnett teachers charged with sex assaults passed background checks

In the past month, four teachers at Gwinnett County schools have been accused of sexually assaulting students. 

Allegations in police reports and warrants include molestation, groping, rape and a two-and-a-half year sexual relationship. The question looming as the end of the school year nears: Could anything have been done to prevent this?

The four teachers, three of whom taught at Gwinnett County public schools and one who taught at private Providence Christian Academy, are a small minority of the district’s and schools’ faculty. Gwinnett County Public Schools employs 12,000 teachers and Providence Christian Academy, a K-12 school in Lilburn, employs 79. 


Gwinnett band director resigns, arrested on rape, sexual assault charges

Gwinnett coach accused of molesting female student at school

Ex-UGA receiver, Gwinnett teacher charged with sexual assault

Cops: Gwinnett teacher groped student, asked for nude pics on Snapchat

Gwinnett County Public Schools has a stringent background check process each potential teacher goes through before they’re hired, including:

  • Fingerprinting
  • Georgia Bureau of Investigation background check
  • FBI background check
  • Record check from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, the state’s teacher certification board

The PSC record check ensures that the district is aware of any previous formal ethics complaints filed against an educator. Previous ethics complaints that have been found to have no probable cause are expunged from a teacher’s record, said John Grant, the PSC’s chief investigator.

Three of the four teachers arrested — Michael HendersonVillie Jones and Ronnie Jackson — are certified with the PSC. Derren Evans, a former long-term substitute teacher at Providence Christian Academy, is not certified with the commission. While the vast majority of public school teachers are required to be certified with the PSC, private and religious schools including Providence Christian Academy can waive that requirement.

Providence Christian Academy teachers are generally certified through organizations including the Southern Association of College and Schools and the Association of Christian Schools International instead of PSC, spokesman Stephen Daniels said. Its private school status also means it does not have access to the GBI and FBI background checks that Gwinnett County Public Schools does.

Providence uses an employee screening company called Praesidium in their pre-employment background checks. That service’s background check includes searches of:

  • The National Sex Offender Registry
  • Multi-state criminal records
  • Motor vehicle reports
  • A social security number background trace

All four teachers charged with sexual assault this month passed the required background checks for their jobs. Nothing found by officials at Gwinnett County Public Schools or Providence Christian Academy during the hiring process caused concern.

Required ethics training and new teacher training in Gwinnett County also cover what constitutes an inappropriate student-teacher relationship, sexual assault abuse and harassment. Ethics “reminders” pop up on teachers’ web portal home screens every day, Bernard Watson, spokesman for the county school system said. 

Under Georgia law, all teachers and school personnel, including those in Gwinnett County, are required to tell law enforcement if they have “reasonable cause to believe child abuse has occurred.”

“No matter how many background checks you do, no matter how many times you train teachers, I don’t know of a way to stop somebody who has an intention of doing wrong or making poor decisions,” Watson said. 

During the 2015-2016 school year, four GCPS teachers were arrested and charged with sexual crimes involving students. The allegations against the educators included molestation and inappropriate sexual relationships. 

“We are doing everything we can to prevent something like this happening again.”

Gwinnett man convicted of murder during truck theft

Rabid cat attacks 3 in Gwinnett; county issues warning

Providence Christian Academy provides both “all staff” and divisional annual training that covers topics including “signs of abuse, how to protect children from abuse, and how to protect themselves,” Daniels, the academy’s spokesman, said. Teachers, staff and volunteers are also given annual training on their responsibilities as mandatory reporters of abuse. 

While Providence Christian Academy does not have a social media policy detailing how teachers should handle contact with students, the school advises teachers to “be wise” in their interactions with students, Head of School Sean Chapman said.

Evans, the Providence substitute teacher, asked a student to send him nude photos on Snapchat.

While criminal cases against Henderson, Jones and Jackson work their way through the court system, their futures in the classroom are up to the Professional Standards Commission. Because Evans was never certified as a teacher, there is no certification for the commission to revoke.

Teaching certifications are not automatically suspended upon a teacher’s arrest, but when educators are charged with a crime, their schools must file an ethics complaint against them within 90 days, Grant, the PSC chief investigator said. Those complaints are investigated, and investigations must be completed 60 days after they begin. 

If the teacher is found to be in violation of the PSC’s code of ethics, a punishment is handed down. That is almost always a revocation of the teacher’s certification when the case involves sexual contact with a student, Grant said. When the certification is revoked, a teacher cannot move to another state and get certified there, and their violation is reported to a national certification agency.

Teachers whose certification is revoked can petition to reapply after three years, but Grant said it is very rare for the commission to grant that petition.

“I only know of two occasions when they’ve been granted permission to reapply for certification, and I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” Grant said.

The Gwinnett County  teachers charged with sexual assault in May are:

  • Michael “Mikey” Henderson, a former math teacher and assistant football coach at Parkview High School. Henderson has been accused of a two-and-a-half year sexual relationship with a female student. The student is now 18 and was in Henderson’s class. A school clerk is also being investigated in connection with this case.
  • Villie Jones, a former band director at South Gwinnett High School. Jones has been accused of raping a student multiple times and having sexual relationships with multiple other students.
  • Ronnie Jackson, a former physical education teacher and track coach at Meadowcreek High School. Jackson is accused of groping and kissing a female student’s genitals.
  • Derren Evans, a former assistant football coach and long-term substitute teacher at Providence Christian Academy. Evans is accused of groping and forcibly kissing a student on multiple occasions and asking her for nude photos on Snapchat.

Jackson is free on $22,200 bond. Evans, Jones and Henderson are being held without bond. 

Like Gwinnett County News on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter and Instagram

See more in this story:

Next Up in Local

Ex-DNC chief Brazile in Atlanta: Answers still needed about 2016 election
Ex-DNC chief Brazile in Atlanta: Answers still needed about 2016 election

Former Democratic party chief Donna Brazile said Sunday she “totally agrees” with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s assertion that we need to “get to the bottom of what happened” in the 2016 election. “She’s absolutely right that we have to take a backstep and get a full accounting of what happened with...
Local kratom users question official warnings about related deaths
Local kratom users question official warnings about related deaths

Local users don’t believe kratom is deadly and say it’s no more addictive than coffee or tea, with similar withdrawal symptoms after long-term, heavy use. The plant-based supplement has been consumed for thousands of years, but started making headlines in 2016, when the Drug Enforcement Administration tried to temporarily place the...
Police: Florida woman kills husband, hides his duct taped body in closet
Police: Florida woman kills husband, hides his duct taped body in closet

A 65-year-old Florida woman was arrested and accused of murdering her husband and then hiding his duct-taped body behind a brick wall she built inside a closet.  Barbara Wozniak, of Shalimar, was charged with second-degree murder Friday night while she was already in the Okaloosa County jail on another charge of tampering with evidence...
Police: UGA student hit 110 mph while using social media during chase
Police: UGA student hit 110 mph while using social media during chase

A University of Georgia student might have gotten away if he didn’t use his cellphone to record his speed on Snapchat while leading a police chase, Athens-Clarke County police say. Hunter Ty Wilkerson reached speeds of 110 mph during the Thursday morning chase before he ran off the road, went airborne and crashed into several parked cars, according...
LaToya Cantrell elected first female mayor of New Orleans
LaToya Cantrell elected first female mayor of New Orleans

LaToya Cantrell made history Saturday night as she was elected New Orleans’ first female mayor, the Times-Picayune reported. Cantrell defeated fellow Democrat and former Judge Desiree Charbonnet to become the 51st mayor in a city that will celebrate the 300th anniversary of its founding 2018. Cantrell, a city councilwoman, got...
More Stories