In wake of AMBER Alert, Maury County Schools makes two big policy changes

(Photo: WKRN)

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WKRN) – Two big changes are coming to Maury County Public Schools in the wake of the AMBER Alert for Elizabeth Thomas.

A task force was formed in early April to discuss district policies and procedures related to incidents involving staff and students.

The committee held their final meeting Friday, and schools spokeswoman Kim Dodridge announced two changes that were decided upon.

The first is required sexual abuse training for all Maury County Schools employees. Training begins this summer in July.

Dr. Robb Killen, supervisor of counselling and mental health for the district, suggested the training and recommended several possible programs for both the staff and students.

Killen said he’d like to see all employees trained each year as well an all-school assembly held for students. He also recommended each school have two to four age-appropriate programs for students each year in addition to the assembly.

The second change involves how complaints are handled within each school and the administration as a whole. The school system has created a new Investigations Procedure Checklist.

The document lists a series of things that must be done when and if a complaint is filed against an employee and outlines how school administrators should handle it. Maury County School’s chief of staff, Amanda Hargrove, will deliver those new procedures to all supervisors and all school administrators. The procedures are effective immediately.

However, some community members believe the changes don’t go far enough.

MORE: Read the Investigations Procedure Checklist

“There could definitely be another Tad Cummins situation under these procedures,” said Anna Skates. She’s with the group Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, or SOCM. “It’s just not good enough, there’s still more work that needs to be done.”

Under the procedures, a teacher could still remain in the classroom while they’re being investigated. Tad Cummins remained in his classroom for more than a week after he was caught kissing Elizabeth Thomas.

“After somebody reports something, it could be weeks before they gather all the eyewitnesses and other accounts,” said Skates. “The teacher wouldn’t be removed or no action would be taken toward a teacher until post investigation.”

Skates also believes there should be sexual abuse training for students and protection for students who report an incident.

“That student needs to be valued and that voice needs to be heard and respected and supported,” she said. “I think empowering students to use their voice for better is what needs to happen, absolutely.”

SOCM also wants Maury County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Marczak to resign.

“I wish he would’ve taken the ownership of the situation. And while it’s not one person’s fault, it’s so disappointing for a leader not to take ownership of something that devastating.”

We reached out to Maury County Schools Public Information Officer for an interview but she said an on-camera interview wouldn’t be provided.

We went to Marczak’s home and left our number but he didn’t call. News 2 also sent a list of SOCM’s allegations but didn’t hear back.

Click here to read more about the AMBER Alert for Elizabeth Thomas.