Crime

‘It will not be tolerated’: MCSD responds to arrests after teacher charged with sex crimes

School district responds to recent arrest of Northside High School teacher

David Lewis, superintendent of the Muscogee County School District, speaks Friday morning during a press conference related to the recent arrest of a Muscogee County School District teacher
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David Lewis, superintendent of the Muscogee County School District, speaks Friday morning during a press conference related to the recent arrest of a Muscogee County School District teacher

The day after a Muscogee County School District teacher was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a student — the third time in less than two weeks someone entrusted with teaching MCSD students was arrested after an incident on school property — district officials held a news conference Friday to reassure the public they don’t tolerate such behavior.

“It’s the third incident, so we wanted to share with the community how serious this is, how we take it seriously,” MCSD superintendent David Lewis told the Ledger-Enquirer after the news conference.

Former Northside High School teacher Kristin Davenport, 26, was arrested Thursday and charged with three counts of sexual assault of a person in custody, according to a Columbus Police Department report. She has a preliminary hearing scheduled in Columbus Recorder’s Court on Tuesday at 2 p.m. She remains in the Muscogee County Jail without bond, as of Friday afternoon.

After an anonymous tip reported the allegation April 18, the teacher was removed from the classroom April 19, when MCSD confirmed that police were investigating the accusation, MCSD communications director Mercedes Parham said during the news conference. The teacher also isn’t working at any district sites, Parham said.

“It is our practice that if any school-based employee is accused of any form of misconduct with a student, we remove them from the school setting to allow the investigation to proceed without any form of impediment,” Parham said.

Last week, the Ledger-Enquirer reported two arrests of former MCSD substitute teachers accused of crimes involving students. The first arrest was for charges of sexual assault of a person in custody, child molestation and enticing a child for indecent purposes at Hardaway High School. The second arrest was for charges of simple battery and criminal trespass at Midland Middle School. MCSD fired both substitute teachers, Parham has said.

Mercedes Parham, director of communications and open records officer for the Muscogee County School District, speaks during a Friday morning press conference related to the recent arrest of a Northside High School teacher in Columbus, Ga.

“We want people to be aware of what we’ve done and that these people were thoroughly vetted and that there was no prior indication of these kind of behaviors,” Lewis told the L-E. “… You can’t predict human behavior. It’s unfortunate and, of course, she (Davenport) still has the opportunity to go through due process, but, again, our first priority is the safety and welfare of our students, and we’ve taken the steps to ensure that is the case here.”

Conducting such a news conference the day after the MCSD Teacher of the Year was announced at the annual gala produced a stark contrast about Columbus schools.

Asked how he feels about discussing the worst of teacher behavior following the celebration of the best, Lewis said, “You go through a series of things, everything from anger to disappointment, frustration. They have the rights to go through the due process, but, as a professional, as an educator for 40 years — and I think I speak for the vast majority of the 5,800 employees we have — we all are disappointed when something like this comes about.

“It will not be tolerated. We always will investigate these things and take whatever appropriate action is called for going forward in collaboration with law enforcement or other agencies, as well as referring to the (Georgia) Professional Standards Commission.”

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.
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