BCES assistant principal placed on leave
Action stems from alleged incident involving water fountain
BY CHRIS BRIDGES
The assistant principal at Banks County Elementary School has been placed on leave pending an investigation into an alleged incident at the school last week involving male students having to drink from a water fountain in which urine had possibly been poured into.
Banks County Superintendent of Schools Chris Erwin said Monday that he is conducting an investigation into the incident which allegedly involved all fifth grade male students at the school. BCES school assistant principal Lori Rylee has been placed on leave while the investigation is conducted.
“There are all kinds of rumors floating around, but we are moving forward with the investigation,” Erwin said. “We do not have a date to have the investigation finished. We want to be thorough in covering everything.”
The incident involves whether fifth grade male students were made to drink from a water foundation after a bottle containing some liquid was poured into it. Erwin said there is some question as to what the substance was, whether it was urine or Gatorade.
Erwin said BCES principal Jan Bertrang has been assisting with the investigation and is working with parents and students on the matter.
Per school system policy, Erwin said he could not comment further on the incident since it was a personnel matter.
A large crowd attended Monday night’s board of education meeting. While several in attendance were there to see their children recognized by the BOE, many were there because of the incident at BCES.
Keith Segars spoke to the board about the incident and said he was a spokesman for the fifth grade parents. Segars said the male students were threatened if they told their parents about the incident and were told law enforcement and the Department of Family and Children’s Services would be contacted.
“When 100-plus children have the same story then it must be true,” Segars said. “The method in how this was handled proves that better administrative training is needed.”
Segars said parents had still not been officially notified of the incident and only found out after a few students began talking about it and word spread of the incident.
Speaking for the concerned parents, Segars said the group wants Rylee relieved of all of her duties and removed from school property. They also want Rylee to have her accreditation removed so she can no longer work in education.
Segars said all teachers should receive training on how to challenge authority when they see something taking place they know is wrong and that the principal should receive training on biohazard issues.
In addition, Segars asked BOE members if the water fountain in question had been tested or if any health experts had been contacted.
“Where is the water fountain now,” Segars asked.
The parents’ group said they expected a response by the end of the business day Thursday or other action would be taken.
“Silence and inactivity will send a message our voices have not been heard,” he said.
Morton McInvale, a teacher at BCES, also spoke to the BOE during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting. McInvale said he supported Rylee because she supported him as a teacher.
“Are we perfect?” McInvale said. “I wish we were. We make mistakes. However, she has been in our school system for 13 years and has always done a great job.”
When McInvale finished talking a large contingent of teachers stood and applauded to show their support for Rylee in the situation.
Rylee released a statement Tuesday morning through her lawyer Stan Baker of Athens.
“Ms. Rylee is extremely thankful for the overwhelming support shown to her at Monday night’s School Board meeting. She is particularly grateful that her supporters pointed out her stellar record and her 13 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in Banks County. We are confident that the Board’s investigation will reveal that this whole incident arises from a misunderstanding and that Ms. Rylee will be cleared of wrongdoing.”