About 20 Grady High School football players, their parents and their coaches are under investigation for allegedly faking home addresses so they could enroll in the Midtown school even though they might live elsewhere, Superintendent Erroll Davis said on Monday.
Parents who signed documents falsely claiming their children belonged at Grady High could face potential criminal charges, Davis said. Students could lose eligibility to play high school sports, and they could be forced to transfer to schools near their real homes.
A few of the football players reported identical home addresses so they could play at Grady High, Davis said.
The team’s head coach, physical education teacher Ronnie Millen Sr., has been removed from Grady High and transferred to another position within Atlanta Public Schools, Davis said. Millen didn’t return a message left at his listed phone number, and the school system didn’t answer questions about Millen’s current job.
Grady High has consistently posted winning records under Millen, but it’s not known as a football powerhouse. Davis said the investigation will determine whether the students were recruited to the school.
“Parents have an ethical obligation to provide accurate addresses to the district and to set an appropriate ethical example to our children,” Davis said. “Our commitment to ethics and ethical behavior is stronger than our commitment to any program this district may have.”
The Grady Grey Knights finished with an 8-3 record after losing in the first round of the playoffs Nov. 15. The school would have to forfeit games and possibly pay fines if found to have used ineligible players, said Ralph Swearngin, executive director for the Georgia High School Association.
GHSA will occasionally look into rumors about one or two ineligible players at a school, but it’s unusual to hear allegations about so many players improperly enrolled at one school on the same team, Swearngin said.
“We think it’s very important that we not have recruiting of students, that we not have parent shopping of students,” he said. “For the integrity of our sports, we need to have a set of rules and they need to be enforced fairly.”
Atlanta Public Schools launched the investigation after receiving an anonymous written complaint about fraudulent addresses on Nov. 7, Davis said.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said in a statement that his office will consult with Atlanta Public Schools and then decide whether to take action.
A parent who coaches Grady High’s lacrosse team, Ron Fisher, said he grew suspicious when he saw cars with license plates from south of the city dropping off their children at the school.
With more than 1,000 students, Grady High is already full and can’t afford to take on additional students who aren’t supposed to be there, Fisher said.
“We have a crowding problem because we have more and more folks moving in town,” said Fisher, whose daughter is a junior at the school. “If it can be validated or verified that students improperly transferred in, then yes it’s a problem. It casts aspersions on the other Grady sports programs and the school in general.”
While this year’s senior class doesn’t include many top prospects, at least three graduates of Grady High have played professionally: halfback Jerry Green, cornerback Earthwind Moreland and linebacker Jack Rudolph. Current University of Georgia cornerback Damien Swann played at Grady High under Millen.
Millen has been Grady High’s head coach since 2001, posting winning records every year except for his initial season. In 2005, the football team advanced as far as the state semifinals, making it the first Atlanta team to make it that far since they were held in the Georgia Dome.
The investigation should be completed by the end of this December’s holiday break, Davis said.
The Georgia High School Association would then review Atlanta Public Schools’ findings, Swearngin said.
Georgia sports eligibility
Students may participate in a sport or activity if they are enrolled full-time in grades 9-12. They must have passing grades — 70 percent or higher — in most classes. They must not have turned 19 years old before May 1 in the year prior to their sports participation.
The Georgia High School Association requires schools to submit eligibility forms that include students’ addresses, and the schools must tell GHSA how they verified the addresses, said Ralph Swearngin, executive director for GHSA.