DA discusses teacher, student relationships

Published 12:32 am Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Opp City Schools kicked off their school year with a district-wide employee meeting Monday.

OCS Assistant Superintendent Emily Edgar said that District Attorney Walt Merrell presented “Blurred Lines,” which she described as a powerful message regarding teacher-student sexual misconduct.

“Merrell delivered a crystal-clear explanation of the law and its repercussions, if violated.”

Edgar said that Merrell provided example of potential dangerous practices for educators such as social media, texting, inappropriate conversations and unaccompanied time.

“The real-life examples Merrell gave were informative of just how situations can spiral into such horrible outcomes, which literally ruins lives,” she said.

Merrell said that Covington County is not immune to any particular crime or moral decay.

“Alabama was recently dubbed as having the highest per capita ratio of teachers arrested for inappropriate behavior with students,” he said. “We’ve already had three arrested here in Covington County. Two have been convicted and one is still awaiting trial.”

In 2011, an Andalusia Middle School special education teacher was charged for sexually abusing three students. She pleaded guilty to two counts of sodomy in the second degree and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for each count.

She was to serve three years, with credit for time already served in the county jail, and will have 12 years of supervised probation.

Last year, an Opp High School teacher was indicted for having sexual relations with a student.

Ashley Nelson Hall was indicted for being a school employee engaging in a sex act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student under the age of 19. Hall was indicted late last year.

In March 2015, a Covington County teacher, Thomas Edwin Gamble, was arrested for school employee having sexual contact with a student under age 19. He was convicted on July 29.

Earlier this year, former Andalusia Middle School and Red Level High School teacher Horace Graham was arrested for four counts of sex act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student and resigned from his teaching job at Enterprise High School.

Merrell said locals can’t act as if “this won’t happen in your back yard.”

“Unfortunately, it already has,” he said. “Thankfully, most teachers don’t need this kind of training. Unfortunately, a few probably do. Thus, our office teamed up with Opp’s superintendent in an effort to be more proactive and prevent future occurrences to safeguard our students.”

Merrell said this county is blessed to have great teachers.

“I appreciate the invitation and I appreciate the fact that our schools and our teachers are willing to prepare themselves to combat event he unthinkable.”