Carol Sadler
Special Education Consultant/Advocate
1105 Rock Pointe Look
Woodstock, GA 30188

I am a lay Parent Advocate assisting parents of children with disabilities in school IDEA, 504 and SST meetings. I am a former CHADD and LDA Coordinator, graduate of the 1st GA Advocacy Office PLSP legal training course and most importantly parent of two children with various disabilities.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fulton County Schools offered hush money to keep student abuse secret

Bombshell testimony in Garrett Lee’s Due Process Hearing today.


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Carol Sadler, Special Education Consultant/Advocate
GA Advocacy Office PLSP I Graduate
1105 Rock Pointe Look
Woodstock, GA 30188

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"There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people." ---- Thomas Jefferson

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GNET=GetNoEducation/Therapy=PsychoNOed=Jail without Jury or Trial=Imprisonment without Legal Representation


Information contained in this communication is confidential and privileged. It is not meant to represent legal or medical advice, but rather advice given based on my knowledge as a trained Parent Advocate by the GA Advocacy Office, Council of Parent Advocates & Attorneys, CHADD, LDA, the GA DOE Parent Mentor program as an invited guest and the special education attorneys that I often work with on educational matters. Please do not forward without my permission.


Mother: Fulton County Schools offered hush money to keep student abuse secret

Posted: Aug 22, 2013 1:56 PM EDT Updated: Aug 22, 2013 4:03 PM EDT

By Jeff Chirico - email



The mother of a disabled boy allegedly abused at a Fulton County middle school said the district offered her $200,000 to settle a lawsuit if she wouldn't talk about the abuse.

Vance represents three disabled former students of Melanie Pickens, a former special-education teacher at Hopewell Middle School in Milton from 2004 to 2007.

Pickens was arrested and charged with physically and mentally abusing her students by shoving them into lockers, screaming into their ears, passing gas in their faces and restraining and isolating them in the dark.

The school district settled one lawsuit brought by a former student for an undisclosed amount but according to Vance, Fulton County Schools has declined to offer similar settlements to other victims, which forces the families to take the district to court.

"The only people who are benefiting are the lawyers. It's ridiculous," said Mark Lee.

Lee's son Garrett, 22, can't talk and was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder after spending three years in Pickens' classroom.

Lee said Fulton County Schools has refused to pay what he believes is appropriate therapy to help Garrett recover from the abuse.

"For the senior officials to be dragging their feet and not taking action on this and to help these poor children is crazy. The first thing we should be doing is, help the children. They are the ones who suffered," said Lee.

"I need professional help for him and I'm not able to give him everything he needs," said Shayne Lee, Garrett's mother.

In a statement to CBS Atlanta News, the school board said, "We take our responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars very seriously. It would be fiscally irresponsible and a waste of taxpayers' dollars to accept legal demands that are far beyond what is appropriate."

Vance, who represents Garrett Lee, said his family is not asking for anything unreasonable and accused the district's attorneys of dragging out the process and incurring additional costs by refusing to allow previous testimony and depositions to be used in an upcoming hearing.

"Even if they didn't want to agree that they owed this child any education, if they wouldn't fight the facts that are already known we would probably save $400,000," said Vance.

In a court hearing next week, the school district will argue that Lee's suit should be dismissed because it was filed outside the statute of limitations.

Vance told CBS Atlanta News that the district is mistaken and pointed out the district still has not notified parents of the alleged abuse that occurred more than six years ago.

A hearing on Pickens' criminal charges is scheduled for January.

Here is the full statement provided by the Fulton County Board of Education:

Fiscal responsibility of taxpayer dollars is always a priority for the Fulton County school board. The school board is extremely diligent and cautious about how funds are spent. If you've followed our recent budget season, you know that we adopted a new budgeting approach that closely aligns funding to district priorities – forcing staff to develop budgets from the bottom up and based on demonstrated need rather than approving incremental increases or decreases. We take our responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars very seriously. In regards to the legal matter you referenced, we are obligated to follow a process to determine what's appropriate. It would be fiscally irresponsible and a waste of taxpayers' dollars to accept legal demands that are far beyond what is appropriate.

Copyright 2013 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

"I guess that would be considered hush money," said Judy Marshall, whose son Jake attended Hopewell Middle School in Milton from 2004 to 2007. 

Marshall said she turned down the deal to protect other students.

"I don't want this to happen to some other child and if nothing is done to stop other events like this, that would continue to happen," said Marshall.

Former special education teacher Melanie Pickens was indicted last year on child abuse charges after a CBS Atlanta News investigation revealed the Fulton County School District covered up the abuse and Fulton County School police repeatedly failed to investigate it.  

A Fulton County Schools spokeswoman denied the district offered the Marshalls hush money. 

Marshall's attorney Chris Vance said, "the school district in informal negotiations offered to pay Judy and John Marshall $200,000 if they wouldn't talk about what happened at Hopewell."

"Its part of the larger scheme that Fulton County [Schools] has done in this case. Allow [the abuse], promote it and once it finally gets out, hide it, obscure it and try to ensure no one knows what they did," said Vance. 

After rejecting the offer, the Marshalls settled with the district for an undisclosed sum.

Pickens pled not guilty and is awaiting trial.


MOREAdditional Links

·  Fulton Co. Schools incurs $1 million in legal bills in student abuse case

"It's an abject waste," said attorney Chris Vance, of the estimated $1 million the Fulton County School District has incurred defending itself against lawsuits brought by former students allegedly abused by their teacher.

"It's one thing to litigate vigorously a case. It's another to abuse the entire process and that's what I believe the Fulton County School District is doing," claimed Vance.