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Salem band instructor suspended

CONYERS - Salem High School Band Director Shawn Geiger was suspended earlier this month for allegedly having inappropriate and sexual conversations with students, and former Salem High School Principal Robert Cresswell was suspended for not fully investigating the matter, according to Rockdale County Public Schools.

RCPS Superintendent Samuel King requested an investigation of Geiger on Dec. 11 regarding incidents alleged to have occurred between Geiger and a student between Oct. 26 and Oct. 31. The investigation ordered by King was a follow-up to an investigation conducted this fall by Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services Craig Dowling in response to parents' complaints, according to the report released by RCPS on Friday.

"Mr. Geiger was conversing with (Assistant Band Director John Claybrook) at work regarding sexual relations that he had with his wife," Andra Cherry, a private investigator hired by the school system, wrote in his report dated Dec. 16. "Both Mr. Geiger and Mr. Claybrook denied that a student was present. ... The parents of the student, who was alleged to have been present, refused to allow school officials or me to speak with (the student)."

Geiger's 10-day suspension also was a result of allegations that he had taken a student off campus without permission in October and engaged in sexual conversations.

"Mr. Geiger did ask the student questions about ... (that student's) sexual involvement with (another student)," Cherry's investigation report reads regarding the off-campus trip. "Mr. Claybrook and (the student) both reported feeling uncomfortable with this conversation. ... The conversation took place in Mr. Claybrook's car off campus during a time that the student should have been in class. Neither (the student), nor Mr. Claybrook, sought approval from the student's parents or the administration staff to have the student off campus during the school day."

Laura Whiddon, director of human resources at RCPS, informed Claybrook in a letter on Jan. 9 that he may be in violation of the Code of Ethics for Educators for his actions of being off campus with a student and also for not reporting Geiger's conversation. Whiddon wrote that the school district would report it to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.

After the investigation by Cherry was complete, Geiger was suspended from the school for 10 days without pay and waived his right to a due process hearing.

"The Superintendent will agree that he will take no further disciplinary action," according to a letter from RCPS General Counsel Jack Lance to J. Tom Morgan, an attorney representing Geiger. "If evidence or allegations of other inappropriate comments or action on the part of Mr. Geiger arise, the Superintendent reserves the right and the duty to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary action if necessary. As required by Georgia law, the Superintendent shall report this matter to the Professional Standards Commission."

Geiger's suspension began Jan. 7 and ended Friday.

"While suspended, Mr. Geiger shall provide no services for the school district and he shall receive no compensation but he shall be considered an employee on suspended status," Lance's letter reads.

Attempts by the Citizen to contact Geiger on Friday were unsuccessful.

After the investigation was completed, Cresswell, who announced on Oct. 18 that he would retire from the school system on Dec. 31, also received an official letter of reprimand from King and was suspended for one day.

"Serious allegations regarding unprofessional conduct by the band director were presented to you. You failed to interview any of the students involved," the letter reads. "When Human Resources representatives asked you why relevant students were not questioned, you stated, 'You did not give a sh--' (sic). Though you have offered an apology and have shown remorse, your failure to thoroughly investigate this matter and your attitude reflected by your comment remain a serious concern."

The letter, dated Dec. 13, said Cresswell's refusal to investigate matters further could have "jeopardized" student safety.

"When asked why you should remain as principal for the remainder of the school year, you assured me that you would comply with all (school) board policies and procedures and that you would do nothing to harm the welfare of the students, your staff or the school district," the letter reads. "As the result of this assurance, I have placed you on administrative leave for one day and direct you to fulfill the last four days of your employment prior to your retirement with the utmost care."

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.