Officials remain mum on principal

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

After a long holiday weekend, Greenville Elementary School’s teachers and students returned to school on Tuesday to the news that their principal, Joseph West, was on paid administrative leave.

West was placed on leave this week by county school superintendent Mike Reed pending the outcome of an investigation of an alleged incident involving a student who attends the school.

While Reed would not comment on the specifics of the alleged incident, sources told the Advocate it involved the administration of a paddling to a student.

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Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram confirmed that the police department is investigating the alleged incident, but said they are only assisting the Department of Human Resources who asked them to interview several people.

Ingram did say no criminal charges have been filed at this time and that his department’s findings would be turned over to district attorney John Andrews.

In West’s absence Allin Whittle, who is assistant superintendent, is filling in at the school.

To protect the confidentiality of any such investigation, local DHR director Freda Stevens would not confirm or deny an investigation is taking place, even though Ingram and Reed said DHR is investigating the alleged incident.

John Bradford with the state DHR office in Montgomery said that typically investigations of this nature are swift.

&uot;We collect as much information as we can after an allegation or report is made,&uot; he said.

&uot;We record the circumstances where the alleged incident occurred and the ages of all those involved and talk to any witnesses.&uot;

Bradford made it clear that DHR investigates all reports, some within five days, others within 12 hours.

&uot;The information we collect helps us prioritize the responses we make,&uot; he said. &uot;Of course, if the child is thought to be in eminent danger, we respond within 12 hours.

Others we respond to within five days.&uot;

Bradford said in a situation where a child is allegedly being abused in a home, if that child appears in danger, then the child is removed to the care of others.

Also, interviews play an important role in the investigation.

He said the alleged victim is interviewed and neighbors, family members or anyone else who may have some information into the case is talked to.

In 2003, DHR across Alabama investigated 6,046 cases that had indicated reports of abuse.

Bradford said an indicated report means that there is credible evidence abuse has taken place.

State DHR officials also investigated 10,142 non-indicated reports of abuse.

This means that there were 10,142 investigations that proved no abuse or neglect had taken place.

He also pointed out that an investigation doesn’t mean a person is guilty or that they are treated as such.

&uot;We don’t go out with any preconceived notions because we are simply gathering the facts,&uot; he said.

&uot;We do not determine guilt or innocence.&uot;

He did say that if an investigation does show evidence abuse has taken place, first the child is protected, and then in some cases the information is shared with law enforcement officials.

Repeated attempts to contact district attorney John Andrews and West for comment on this story were unsuccessful.