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I-TEAM: 3 incidents unreported by Columbia County schools

Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 9:12 PM EDT
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EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The I-Team uncovers another incident of a crime on school property in Columbia County not being reported to the sheriff’s office. That’s the third one in Augusta.

Now the sheriff’s office, the district attorney and new Superintendent Dr. Stephen Flynt will have a meeting about this, and the superintendent also plans to reach out internally to his staff about this issue.

This comes after the I-Team started asking questions Tuesday about an incident report which details a school bus fight where a Harlem Middle School student was punched on the face on the bus and his glasses were broken. A deputy noticed the markings on his face, interviewed the teenage suspect at his home, and charged him with simple battery.

The issue here again is the victim’s mother called to report the incident. Not the school.

The sheriff’s office says this violated their agreed upon memorandum of understanding. It says if a potential crime takes place on school grounds, the school will call the sheriff’s office to investigate.

MOU by Jeremy Turnage on Scribd

Last week, we told you about a Greenbrier Middle Student charged with a felony accused of sending a death threat in a text. A parent called it in to law enforcement. Not school police. And a third case at Columbia Middle School an anonymous tipster called it into the sheriff’s office rather than the school principal who admitted knowing about the case. The sheriff’s office later determined not to bring charges but told us, any time it’s a question that should be left up to them to decide.

Flynt declined to interview with the I-Team about this but the district provided this statement:

“With recent reports that proper notification did not happen as agreed upon in the Memorandum of Understanding from 2013 with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, the school district is taking proactive steps to ensure training and communication is up to date and clearly communicated. Safety of students and staff remains a top priority and we want our community to feel safe knowing that expectations surrounding the reporting of violations of the law are taken seriously.

School administrators and safety officers are reminded of this important reporting procedure as part of the district’s back to school processes. However, with three separate instances at three different schools within the first month of school, Dr. Flynt is communicating directly with principals and school safety officers to ensure they have the proper training needed and to reiterate the importance of the MOU’s requirement to notify the Sherriff’s Office upon detection of a crime or upon the receipt of information that a crime may be committed.”

The sheriff’s office also confirmed the upcoming meeting to the I-Team and discuss the current crime reporting policy and determine if any changes are needed.

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