Friday, September 25, 2015

The Trumped-up Case Against Atlanta Teacher Angela Williamson

On April 2, 2015, Angela Williamson and 10 other Georgia educators were convicted on racketeering charges that carry a maximum 20-year jail sentence. Yes, educators, not mobsters, were convicted on racketeering charges. The charges followed a high-profile six-month trial that lifted the lid on a nationwide issue of manipulated, massaged and altered standardized education tests scores.
According to the indictment that spawned from the Atlanta investigation, the test answers were consistently “altered, fabricated and falsely certified” between 2005 and 2009.

There is no disputing that something was going on with the test scores. There is wiggle room to contest the fact that an innocent teacher has gotten her career and life destroyed by something she appears to have nothing to do with.

Out of all the defendants that chose to forego a plea deal and take their case to court, Angela Williamson’s case is one that leaves me scratching my head and wondering; why is this woman accused of anything? It looks like she was snared in a dragnet and the players in the Georgia justice system would not let her out.
Angela Williamson, a 15-year educator, was a teacher at Dobbs Elementary School when the school was caught up in a cheating scandal exposed by a state audit. The audit found an unusually high number of wrong-to-right erasures on the CRCT. Williamson is accused of prompting kids to change those answers, a feat her attorney says is impossible.

Georgia state investigators alleged that during 2009 testing Angela Williamson sent signals in the form of coughs or frowns when she wanted kids to change their answers, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported. One test proctor also testified she heard Williamson give students answers, according to a document from the State Board of Education.

"So coughing and frowning while children are testing is a crime? Even worse, are we to assume its racketeering?"

The structure and design of the testing procedure denounces the allegations against Williamson.

There were 100 questions on the tests in question. Students received different versions of the test, her lawyer Gerald Griggs told Business Insider.

"To coach the children on what answers to select, Griggs said she would have had to hover over students, read several paragraphs that are used to assess kids' reading comprehension, and feed them the answers."

She would have to have done it with a test proctor standing right outside. Griggs also said that the student who made claims about "cough prompts" admitted that Williamson never said before the test that she planned to cough to signal that kids should change the answers.

In a graver allegation, Georgia state investigators say Williamson told her students, “If you tell anyone about this, it would be the last person you tell."

Students contradict the cheating and threat claim. Several students testified in court that Williamson did not cheat.  I guess the children’s testimony fell on deaf ears.

Angela Williamson received a sentence of five years. She remains out of jail pending the outcome of the impending appeal. If she loses her appeal, she will be required to serve two years in a correctional facility, followed by three years probation, 1,500 hours of community hours and $5,000 fine.

She was sentenced under the first offender guidelines which means after satisfying the requirements of her sentencing, her criminal history related to this case can be expunged. However, we all know once you have a brush with the criminal justice system, that is a scar that becomes a lifetime blemish – especially in a case that garners national media coverage. Your record can be expunged, but Google cannot. That is all for naught considering the fact Williamson should not be in the criminal justice system in the first place.

There is also the fact that unlike some of her colleagues, Williamson was never caught on a wiretap, according to her lawyer. Williamson was convicted on unsubstantiated. allegations

Add to the above guilt debunking facts that Williamson was found innocent by a disciplinary board in June 2012.

In its decision, the tribunal recommended to "reinstate the employee in the event the employee has been temporarily relieved from duty in accordance with this part."

In July, the APS Board of Education voted to reinstate Williamson's previous school year contract.
However, she did not get her job back. Instead, she and her attorney Gerald Griggs filed a lawsuit asking that the tribunal's decision be upheld.
In December 2012, APS had Williamson undergo a second hearing, to determine if she should be reinstated. She was not. Instead, she found herself at the crossroads of pleading to something she was innocent of or facing trial for something she was innocent of. She and her attorney chose to go to court. That court miscarried justice and catapulted Williamson into a situation she has no business being in. She’s in the business of educating children not the business of racketeering. I don’t think this fact should go unchecked.

I took an interest in Williamson’s case when her class, poise, and resilience emerged in her court appearances. She was always appropriately dressed, stylish hairstyle, and harbored a demeanor of magnetism. She didn’t carry herself as a woman that would use the very children she was passionate about teaching as pawns in some faux job security and bonus scheme.

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