Maury County Schools releases timeline of investigation into Tad Cummins

Here's Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas at school in January, days before his alleged inappropriate contact with her. (Courtesy: TBI)

MAURY COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – Maury County Public Schools released a timeline of its investigation into allegations against Tad Cummins, a former teacher who is currently at the center of a nationwide search.

Cummins faces one count of sexual contact with a minor and is currently being investigated by both the Maury County school district and sheriff’s office. The alleged incident happened with Elizabeth Thomas, 15, who Cummins is now charged with kidnapping.

(Graphic: WKRN)

“On behalf of the Maury County Public School system, we hope and pray for the safe return of Elizabeth Thomas,” said Superintendent Dr. Christopher J. Marczak. “We continue to cooperate with law enforcement in the sharing of all pertinent information while the search continues.”

Thomas, was a student in Cummins’ forensics class at Culleoka Unit School. An investigation into the teacher began after a student reported they witnessed Cummins kiss her.

He was ultimately fired last Tuesday, the day after he and Thomas disappeared.

PHOTOS: AMBER Alert for Elizabeth Thomas

On Tuesday, the school released a timeline into their investigation:

  • Jan. 24, 2017: Culleoka Unit School administration was notified by a student concerning an allegation of contact witnessed between Cummins and a student. The complaint stated, “It wasn’t like a makeout kiss, just a peck on the lips.” Culleoka Unit School administration gathered all information that day from the student who was said to have witnessed the alleged inappropriate contact.
  • Jan. 25, 2017: Maury County Schools Chief of Staff, Dr. Amanda Hargrove, was contacted by Culleoka Unit School administration, and Dr. Hargrove immediately began an investigation.
  • Jan. 26 to Jan. 30, 2017: As per school board policy 5.500 and 6.305, Dr. Hargrove and staff investigated the allegations by interviewing all pertinent parties, including students, staff, and administration.

    Here’s Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas at school in January, days before his alleged inappropriate contact with her. (Courtesy: TBI)
  • Jan. 27, 2017: The student named in the alleged concern was removed from Cummins’ class and schedule by Culleoka Unit School administration.
  • Jan. 31, 2017: Maury County Schools administration was notified by law enforcement that Cummins was the subject of a criminal investigation. The district turned over all known information and documentation to law enforcement about the recent allegations against Cummins at Culleoka Unit School, which were also still under investigation by Maury County Schools.
  • Feb. 3, 2017: Late afternoon, Maury County Schools received an allegation that Cummins had been in contact with the same student, despite explicit directives from his supervisor not to interact.
  • Feb. 6, 2017: At 8 a.m., Dr. Hargrove met with Cummins and suspended him from his duties at Culleoka Unit School.

Cummins’ final termination from Maury County Schools was prompted by his allegedly fleeing the area on March 13, which was reported to the school district by law enforcement. A termination document was finalized by Maury County Schools on March 14.

Cummins applied to be a Health Science teacher for Maury County Schools after 13 years as a registered Respiratory Therapist.

On his application Cummins wrote that he decided to apply for the position because: “I have often thought that I would love to be a teacher, and just might excel at it, but it never seemed to be my destiny. When this opportunity presented itself I recalled that one of my favorite teachers came to teaching as a second career. That helped me to believe that I can too.”

Cummins had superior or well above expectations marks from two professional references that filled out Maury County’s provided questionnaires.

One of them wrote: “Tad is an excellent candidate for the position. He is the model employee and would be a valuable asset.”

Tad Cummins (Courtesy: TBI)

After his interview, the interviewer gave Cummins the highest marks for each category of the evaluation criteria. He scored a five in all sections, including attitude and enthusiasm toward teaching and children, compatibility with other school staff, program and community, and commitment to professional excellence and integrity.

The TBI is still working to find out what led up to last week’s disappearance and how his relationship began with Thomas.

The Thomas family’s attorney also believes the two had been communicating with one another through Instagram, something the school board discourages.

In a document titled Employee Use of Social Media and Personal Websites, it states, “The Board discourages employees from socializing with students on social networking websites. The same relationship, exchange, interaction, information, or behavior that would be unacceptable in a non-technological medium is unacceptable when done through the use of technology.” Click here to read the whole social media policy.

A attorney also said they noticed the 15-year-old added a ring emoji with the caption “Wife” to her Instagram account around the time of her disappearance.

Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas (Courtesy: TBI)

An AMBER Alert remains in affect for Thomas, who has not been seen since Monday, March 13 after she was dropped off at a Shoney’s in Columbia by a friend around 7:45 a.m.

Neither Thomas or Cummins have been seen or heard from in over a week. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has received over 450 tips, but there remains no credible sightings or information that lead to their whereabouts.

Thomas has hazel eyes, stands 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings.

Cummins is a 6-foot-tall white man who weighs around 200 pounds. He has brown hair and eyes, and he’s believe to be armed with two handguns.

The 50-year-old was added to the state’s Top 10 Most Wanted list last week. There is a $1,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

The TBI urges anyone who has information about the case to call 1-800-TBI-FIND. If you spot the Nissan Rogue and can verify the license plate TN 976-ZPT, call 911 immediately.

Click here for complete coverage of the ongoing AMBER Alert for Elizabeth Thomas.