DeKalb spends $170K on bullying probe; written reports remain private
The DeKalb County school system has paid a retired judge $170,000 — and apparently plans to spend even more — to investigate bullying that’s said to have led to the suicide of a fifth-grader at Dunaire Elementary.
But, whatever the school district may learn, its attorneys say the written findings are not subject to public disclosure.
DeKalb drew nationwide attention in April after Jaheem Herrera, 11, returned home from school and hanged himself in his bedroom closet. Jaheem’s mother said she had complained repeatedly to school administrators that bullies had tormented her son at Dunaire.
Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore (right), hired by the school district to investigate the Herrera case, reported last month that she found teasing and name-calling, but no sign of bullying before Jaheem took his life.
Now, Moore has signed an extension to her contract with the district. The new deal calls for her to “fully investigate all reported allegations of bullying at Dunaire Elementary School within the last three years.”
Moore will be paid $325 per hour through Oct. 30 under the consulting agreement. The extension was signed June 19.
School officials have repeatedly denied requests filed under the Open Records Act for a copy of Moore’s written report. Her contract requires that she report her findings in writing, but the report is incomplete, Erick Burroughs, a lawyer for the district, said in a letter Friday.
In any event, the letter said, the district will not release Moore’s written findings because they are protected by attorney-client privilege.
Moore’s contract makes no mention of legal representation or other legal services. A school system spokesman has said Moore is not representing the district in the Herrera case.
Moore billed the school district $3,423 in May and $166,995 in June, Burroughs said in the letter. Schools spokesman Dale Davis said the charges reflect the work of a team of attorneys working with Moore.
The school district refused to release copies of Moore’s invoices, which it maintains are protected from disclosure as attorney work product.
Dunaire reported 11 incidents of “threats/intimidation” in the three school years ending in May 2008, according to the state Department of Education. In that same period, the school reported eight incidents of battery, 22 of disorderly conduct, 98 fights and 134 miscellaneous rule violations.