As part of our series on the quiet epidemic of criminals in North Carolina Classrooms, we featured a story out of Chatham County involving a middle school teacher we have referred to as Jane Doe.
Read the three-part series:
- Teacher Arrests in NC: A Quiet Epidemic
- A Quiet Epidemic: What Background Checks Miss
- A Quiet Epidemic: Flawed Process, Broken System
We now have an update of that investigation, but first, a recap of the Jane Doe story.
A tipster called Jane’s school to report on incidences of Jane’s past drug use (heavy crack and cocaine use) of which the tipster was aware through Jane’s statements and actions.
Additional statements were reported by those who were, or had been, close to Jane Doe while she was a licensed teacher in NC and earlier in her life, and it was reported that Jane’s daughter had been removed and her parental rights terminated.
Jane’s parental rights had been terminated through an extensive Child Protective Services intervention prior to her receiving licensure to teach children in North Carolina (a licensure that would have been illegal under the laws of over 36 states and the District of Columbia).
The school principal who received the report on Jane took no investigative action to ascertain if Jane’s drug problem was a safety or culture issue for the school.
The principal failed to even talk to Jane Doe about the report.
Six weeks later, when the county school district received a FOIA request from the tipster (along with 5 other county school districts) regarding background check, hiring, and policy enforcement issues, the Superintendent of Human Resources finally called a meeting with Jane and the principal.
During the meeting, Jane claimed that she had not used illegal drugs since 2003 and had not been in a recovery or rehab program since 2000 or 2002.
Jane explained away the Child Protective Services intervention and subsequent termination of her parental rights as Jane being “too young” to be a parent – Jane was 22 years of age at the time.
A drug test was scheduled by the school and they gave Jane 8 days’ notice. Jane did not test positive for illegal drugs in that test, which is not surprising given the over one-week long advance warning she was given by the Chatham County School District. (As pointed out in an earlier portion of this series, the use of very few illegal substances show up in a urine test taken 8 days later.)
A little over a month later, Jane filed a lawsuit against the tipster using alleged quotes stated to her by the principal of the school and the Superintendent of Human Resources.
In the statement to Jane attributed to the principal in the initial court filing, the principle identified the tipster to Jane – a violation of Chatham County School Board Policy.
The quoted statement of the principal alleged that the tipster stated that Jane “was and is a current drug user.” The tipster denied making the statement.
In court documents, the tipster details the conversation with the principal, in which the principal was informed that the tipster doubted that Jane was currently using drugs primarily because of a lawsuit Jane filed four months earlier attempting to get 50% custody of her second child.
That suit stated that Jane had been very secretive in recent years – going so far as to hide and instruct her young child to lie to family about Jane’s nearly 5 year relationship (which was ongoing while she was teaching) with a heroin addict and member of the Aryan Nation who had killed a man during one of his many incarcerations. Much of this activity by the boyfriend occurred while Jane was dating him.
The tipster maintains that she told the principal, that tipster had no knowledge of any current use and had no means to have such knowledge. The tipster was primarily interested in hiring policies and procedures for teachers, something that Jane’s background raised questions about.
The principal’s handwritten notes taken at the time of the call confirm the tipster’s statement. So then why did the principal tell Jane something different than what the principal had heard and written in her own notes? We may never know since Jane’s case against the tipster has been dismissed. However, the entire situation of Chatham County’s handling of a community tip still leaves even bigger questions for parents across the state.
Jane’s Suit Boomerangs
The suit Jane filed against the tipster was a slander and defamation claim. Those can be dangerous lawsuits for plaintiffs since they often require the plaintiff to reveal wrongdoing they seek to hide. And Jane’s lawsuit did just that.
The tipster filed a complaint with the State School Board and provided them with full access to the court documents arising from the case. The tipster’s concerns were two-fold: One being someone like Jane in a classroom and the other being the investigation process in Chatham County Schools.
Within a matter of a few months, the State School Board had court documents and reports showing the following details about Jane Doe:
- admission to using illegal drugs while teaching; Child Protective Services record; romantic relationship with the Aryan Nation, killer jail bird; use of pills, crack, cocaine, LSD and other illegal substances beginning at age 14; hearing voices; long-time, off and on use of a mix of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs (a mix commonly prescribed to addicts which is found to have some success with crack relapse); regular use of crack and cocaine while breast feeding her youngest child and while student teaching; a drug test (ordered by an entity other than Chatham County Schools that was administered to Jane after the lawsuit was filed ) showing Jane had used an agent to “beat the test;”suicidal attempts and thoughts; participation in a 12-step recovery program in 2009 and 2010 focused on her crack and cocaine addiction
purported demon possession and alleged exorcism
- misleading statements to Chatham County administrators regarding criminal computer trespass charges that she plead guilty to under a deferred prosecution agreement with the Assistant District Attorney for Orange County in 2017
- limited admission to purchasing crack and cocaine with sex; and numerous conflicting statements were given under oath.
The State School Board turned the investigation over to the Chatham County School District attorney, for him to conduct their investigation for them.
Letting the inmates run the asylum in this manner is currently the norm for State School Board investigations – no independent investigation method is required nor even available.
As a reminder of a previous installment of Jane Doe’s story, we are talking about the same county attorney that advised the Chatham County Superintendent when the press became involved in the case.
That same Superintendent made misleading statements to the School Board about Jane and the seriousness of the character traits and actions that had been reported. The Superintendent also went so far as to make false and inflammatory statements about the tipster.
Prior to the case’s dismissal, and 10 months after the tipster’s initial call, the principal was deposed.
In her deposition, she confirmed that she had told Jane that a caller had identified that Jane Doe “was and is a current drug user.” This is an awkward turn of phrase and one that directly contradicts what the principal wrote with her own hand in her own notes as the call was actually taking place.
In her notes from the call, the principal writes, “No knowledge of current drug use,” and at no point in the notes does the principal write that the tipster specifically stated that Jane was currently using drugs.
But something else interesting and disturbing came out in the principal’s deposition. Jane Doe had indicated in the family law case that she may call the principal as a character witness.
The attorney for the child’s father in the custody case commented that the principal had been called as a character witness in other family law matters involving Jane’s attorney’s other clients who taught in her schools.
In the deposition, the principal was asked if she had ever been subpoenaed to be a character witness, or otherwise in a case. The principal denied ever receiving a subpoena, other than to testify on a juvenile matter, and the subpoena that brought her to the deposition in Jane’s slander case against the tipster.
An attorney involved in the cases filed by Jane was perplexed when he heard of this response from the principal because Jane’s family law attorney had subpoenaed the principal in at least two other cases recently in which he was also involved.
The tipster’s counsel sought to have Jane’s family law attorney release copies of all subpoenas he had served on the principal and all communication that they had had, regardless of client. It appeared that there was some sort of relationship or understanding between Jane’s family law attorney and her principal that predated Jane’s case.
It also appeared that the principal may be overly willing to be “helpful” in personal life matters of the personnel she supervises – indeed, court documents show that Jane tried to convince the principal that the tipster was trying to undermine Jane’s attempt at gaining custodial ground with her youngest child.
Jane’s family court attorney put up a fight to delay releasing the files and documents related to his communications with Jane’s principal and the attorney’s use of the principal in his litigation strategy in other cases. Jane then dismissed the case against the tipster before the next steps could be completed to obtain the subpoenas the principal denied receiving and any record of communications the principal had with Jane’s attorney.
A few months after the principal and Superintendent of Human Resources were deposed, and after American Lens started directly probing into administrative and investigative matters related to Jane Doe, Jane was purportedly brought in and questioned about her statement she made almost a year earlier to Chatham County officials.
That statement included that she had not used illegal drugs since 2002.
According to statements made by Jane included in court documents, school officials reportedly made her aware of one incident of illegal drug use while employed as a teacher found in the court files.
This fact showed that Jane was in violation of Chatham Handbook Rule 7110; lying or giving misleading information in a human resources matter, which is a terminable offense.
Jane reported that she was given an ultimatum – she could resign for whatever excuse she chose, or be fired for the cited violation of Rule 7110. Jane chose to resign, citing personal reasons in her original resignation form, and personal and medical reasons in her amended form filed the following day.
Questions Remain In Jane Doe Case
Why did the Chatham County middle school principal state she had never received a subpoena when there was evidence not only to the contrary, but also directly in connection with one of Jane’s attorneys?
Why did Jane’s principal give Jane an awkward quote to use in a lawsuit against a tipster (who should have been protected under Board policy) that contradicts the principal’s own handwritten notes of the tipster’s call and the tipster’s notes from the call?
Why was Jane given 8 days warning before a drug test?
Why did Jane’s principal do nothing about a tipster’s report until the county received a Freedom of Information Act request six weeks later?
Why did the Superintendent purposefully mislead School Board members about Jane’s limited confessions to school officials and the nature and content of the tipster’s information?
Was the board eventually informed of the factual nature of the tipster’s statements to school officials, as supported by the court documents provided to the county attorney by the State School Board?
Did Chatham County recommend that Jane’s license to teach in North Carolina be suspended or revoked for her deceit?
Why did the county assist a teacher (who they eventually forced to resign) in the legal attack on a person providing a tip to school officials?
Would Chatham County have forced Jane Doe to resign but for the involvement of the press?
Lastly and most importantly: Do parents have to send the press to school to make school administrators do their job?
The in-depth study of the Jane Doe investigation in Chatham County leaves us asking a very terrifying question: Why is it that many NC schools are shocked and seemingly unaware of illegal and harmful activities going on within their school community when the sheriff or press show up?
Are they really completely clueless about things like sexual misconduct going on for months or years? Or are they just used to forming the educators’ equivalent to the Blue Wall of Silence to protect teachers like Jane or sexual predators? Perhaps it’s just the county protecting itself instead of its students.
An Update on Another Former Chatham Teacher
Around that same time American Lens began its investigation of Jane Doe earlier this year, another Chatham county teacher, Robert Woodard, was arrested.
Woodard has since been convicted of 16 felonies. All of the charges were sexual in nature and involved a student under the age of 15.
He was sentenced to 14 years and 5 months and is now incarcerated. Woodard’s minimum amount he can serve is 7 years and 10 months.
As of the publishing of this article, he has not appeared on the NC Teacher License Revocations list.
American Lens has sent an inquiry to the State Board of Education regarding this omission and officials there told us his name was in the process of being added.