A former educator for the Muscogee County School District has been indicted by an Albany grand jury on charges that he engaged in sex acts with a teen while he was HIV positive.
Phillip Marquis Burns, 29, was working as an academic coach at Wesley Heights Elementary School for more than a month when authorities arrested him in November 2012 and took him to Albany where charges were filed. A five-count indictment was filed Wednesday, charging Burns with child molestation, aggravated child molestation, reckless conduct, child enticement and criminal solicitation.
The indictment states that Burns is accused of masturbating and having oral sex with a 16-year-old boy and asking another boy to send him explicit pictures of himself. The alleged sexual contact with the teen occurred in May 2012, prompting the reckless conduct charge because Burns knew he was HIV positive. Under Georgia law, a person engaging in intercourse or oral sex with someone while knowingly failing to disclose a positive HIV status faces up to 10 years in prison.
In Dougherty County, Burns was a finalist for the 2012 Teacher of the Year Award. He was a third-grade science teacher at Lamar Reese Magnet School of the Arts when he left in September 2012. He was hired in Muscogee County on Sept. 28, 2012.
After Burns arrest, the police chief of the Dougherty County School System said an investigation was launched after a parent had concerns about text messages between the teacher and a teen. Communication with the educator and high school student continued in Columbus, the chief said.
“I’m proud of our police department for conducting the investigation and taking someone out of the classroom who shouldn’t have been there,” said R.D. Harter, a spokesman for the Dougherty County schools.
There were no allegations of inappropriate conduct between Burns and any Muscogee County students.