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.

RELATED: DeKalb Schools’ reassigned principals mostly return to teaching, retire

RELATED: Style over substance? Despite critics, DeKalb Schools leaders tout progress

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.”

In other education news:

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Education

Errors in financial, housing red tape can snarl first day on campus
Errors in financial, housing red tape can snarl first day on campus

The fall semester often begins with familiar complaints from some students and parents on many college campuses. The school didn’t properly process the student’s financial paperwork. The college erred and the student has nowhere to live on campus. This year was no different for some metro Atlanta campuses. More than 150 Clark Atlanta University...
DeKalb Schools: Recent departures highlight administrative turnover
DeKalb Schools: Recent departures highlight administrative turnover

The DeKalb County School District has confirmed in the last two weeks two departures from the superintendent’s staff cabinet, high-ranking officials in charge of key departments. Chief of Staff Ramona Tyson will be stepping into a new role with the school board, according to an announcement during the Sept. 10 DeKalb County Board of Education...
School systems find inexpensive safety alternatives
School systems find inexpensive safety alternatives

Not all aspects of school safety have to be expensive. That’s the message some local schools are sending out as districts across the state and country focus on that topic. Although technology such as cameras and key-card entry systems, and highly trained personnel such as police officers and counselors require a considerable amount of funding...
Schools try to thwart a troubling trend: childhood suicide
Schools try to thwart a troubling trend: childhood suicide

Doris Adhuze saw no signs on April 21, 2017, that her son planned to take his life. Jovany, she said, was a black teen from a two-parent household known for high-fiving friends and teachers, and quietly buying lunch for students who needed one. Still, she found him hanging from a coat hook on his closet door about 10 minutes after the 13-year-old arrived...
Atlanta school board considers goals for 2018-19 year
Atlanta school board considers goals for 2018-19 year

This year will be all about planning for the Atlanta Board of Education. The school board is finalizing its goals for the 2018-2019 year, even though school began Aug. 1. The proposed goals, which the board approved tentatively earlier this  month but  must still approve via a final vote, are:  To develop a user-friendly community...
More Stories