News 12 at 11, December 8, 2008
AUGUSTA, Ga -- Superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden is calling the Spirit Creek sex scandal a mess and an embarrassment.
As the middle school tries to get back to normal, the seven adults involved now know where they stand.
News 12's Lynnsey Gardner broke this story. Tonight she separates fact from fiction.
It's a love triangle with all the fixings from allegations of sex on a blow up mattress in an office at school, to a love child, to affairs that have cost educators and an officer their job.
It's a tangled sex scandal web that quickly spun out of control.
One middle school and seven members of it's faculty and staff, from the top down, accused of doing a lot more than their day job.
"It has been so massive." Says Richmond County Superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden. "In the type of stuff people say had happened or did not happen -- who's telling the truth and who's not."
We now know some adults were having sex on school campus during school hours last school year.
Dr. Bedden says it started with a love triangle and a scorned lover,
7th grade teacher Denise Ogden. She sent two emails to the school system this school year using a false name. As proof, Dr. Bedden says a picture of another accused in their undergarments was attached.
An investigation began and the allegations snowballed.
In the end, the former Principal, former public safety officer, a teacher, a graduation coach, PE coach, a Special Education teacher and another teacher all accused and all investigated.
"Yes, it is an embarrassment.. Sometimes people make poor choices." Dr. Bedden says the school system called in the GBI to give polygraph tests, phone records were obtained, and questions were asked. "It's fair to say some were cooperative, others were luke warm."
The investigation found sex was going on inside officer Ronnie Collins' public safety office and a blow up mattress was confirmed to be inside.
Another room was also used.
When the investigation began, Collins was working for the Richmond County Sheriff's Office. He was later fired for not being truthful about the scandal.
Denise Ogden resigned, as did Sharon McAlevy who was the Spirit Creek Principal at the time. "People sometimes choose to resign as a matter of being professional. I never approached this about trying to prove someone did something wrong so I could get them. " Dr. Bedden says Ogden and McAlevy will never again work for the school system.
The other accused are still employed.
Spirit Creek Graduation Coach John Barksdale got a letter of reprimand for slapping McAlevy on the butt and for making inappropriate comments.
As for the other teacher, PE Coach and Special Education teacher, one was reprimanded and suspended for five days, the other two were given letters of advisement.
"I would also apologize to them -- the students. Especially the students at Spirit Creek who had to live through this. I would apologize to the community for having to be put through this as this made national spotlight. This is not something we want Richmond County to be known for. We didn't want to be known for this at all."
Dr. Bedden estimates the investigation cost thousands of dollars and a lot of precious time.
Two of the seven accused still work at Spirit Creek. And as for the alleged love child, Dr. Bedden says the school system didn't feel the need to investigate it.
Whether or not the two educators that resigned, Ogden and McAlevy, can continue to teach in other districts in Georgia is still to be determined. Dr. Bedden says the investigation's findings will be turned over to the Professional Standard Commission. They are the agency that will determine whether the teachers involved will be able to keep their licenses.