A former Gainesville High School construction teacher has entered a pre-trial diversion program following a physical altercation with a student last August.
Darrell Dwayne Lucas was charged with simple battery, a misdemeanor, after the alleged interaction.
According to a complaint submitted to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, which The Times obtained through an open records request, Lucas “was observed on video grabbing a student’s backpack. The student pulled away. Mr. Lucas shoved the student in the chest using both of his hands. He then proceeded to tell the student to ‘hit me and you’ll go to jail.’ The student walked away.”
Lucas was placed on administrative leave and then school officials asked for his resignation, which he submitted.
The incident was reported to the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, as well as the Gainesville Police Department.
It has been the school system’s protocol to fire or have educators resign rather than press charges.
“Each case is different and if violations occur,” Williams said regarding internal investigations, “we have the opportunity to take personnel action (suspension, resignation or termination) and report all violations to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.”
Lucas resigned shortly after the incident allegedly occurred.
“The safety of our students will always come first,” Williams said. “After immediately suspending the teacher, we conducted the investigation and turned it over to the Gainesville Police Department.”
Lucas has no previous criminal record. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in early January.
“Since his arraignment, Mr. Lucas entered into a pre-trial diversion agreement with the Office of the Solicitor General of Hall County,” Allen Lightcap, attorney for Lucas, said in a statement to The Times.
Agreeing to the pre-trial diversion is not an admission of guilt.
If Lucas completes the program, which includes a 180-day period in which he is required to maintain employment, pay a fine, take an anger management evaluation and avoid further legal trouble, the charges against him will be dropped.
“The pre-trial diversion agreement provides that the simple battery charge will be dismissed upon the satisfactory completion of the (program) requirements,” Lightcap said. “Mr. Lucas appreciates this fair resolution from the Office of the Solicitor General based on the circumstances of this case.”
The teacher in one of those cases also agreed to a pre-trial diversion program.
The other substitute still has two pending misdemeanor charges, but was defended by a local civil rights group, the Newtown Florist Club, for his contributions to the community.
The Florist Club was critical of the school system’s “developing pattern of criminalizing educators in matters involving student discipline.”
Florist Club leaders said that while they supported the school district in its efforts to protect students from abuse and provide equal access to learning, they were particularly concerned about a perceived lack of training and resources available to young educators.
The Florist Club, however, has not commented on or had any knowledge of the incident involving Lucas.
Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams told The Times recently that there has been no further discussion with the Florist Club.