Security camera video of incident at Langston Chapel Middle SchoolThis footage shows the incident that resulted in the 60-day suspension of LCMS teacher Marc Rountree.
The Bulloch County Board of Education has suspended Langston Chapel Middle School social studies teacher Marc Rountree for 60 days without pay for shoving a seventh-grade student onto the floor and the corner of a locker last Dec. 2 in a hallway of the school.
But the board stopped short of accepting Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson’s recommendation that Rountree’s employment contract be terminated. The decision, conveyed in a Monday, Feb. 6, formal letter signed by Board of Education Chair Glenn Womack and signed by Rountree as received the same day, followed a lengthy “fair dismissal” hearing that began with testimony and presentation of evidence in open session at 5 p.m. Jan. 31. The hearing lasted past midnight, with board members then deliberating in closed session into the early hours of Feb. 1.
A central piece of evidence was video from a security camera at the school. The video, obtained on an open records request by the Statesboro Herald and posted with this story at www.statesboroherald.com, was previously obtained and posted online by at least one Savannah television station, WSAV.
The video shows the student, a slim young man, approach Rountree from behind, leap up and tap the teacher on the head with one hand. As the student steps beside him, Rountree appears to look toward the student and shoves him with both hands. The student falls backward onto the floor, contacting the corner of the locker with his back. Rountree then attempts to help the student up, but the student sinks back toward the floor, kneeling and leaning forward until his face is near the floor with his hands above his head.
But Rountree quickly approaches the student again, helps him up, and with his arm on the student’s shoulders, walks with him in the direction of the camera and past it, out of view up the hallway. All of this occurs in 30 seconds in the video clip.
Lawyers at hearing
Local attorney Charlie Aaron was brought in to conduct the Jan. 31-Feb. 1 hearing, and Andrew J. Lavoie, from local firm Bruce, Mathews & Lavoie, represented the school system. Rountree was represented by Francys Johnson from the Statesboro office of Davis Bozeman Johnson Law and by Wesley Woolf, a Savannah attorney Johnson said serves as a Georgia Association of Educators regional counsel.
The Statesboro Herald did not have a reporter at the hearing but filed an open records request this week for the decision letter, as well as the video and a copy of Rountree’s personnel file. The file shows he was hired by the Bulloch County Schools just last spring for service this school year, and it includes no previous complaints or disciplinary actions. He previously worked in the Richmond County and Columbia County schools in and near Augusta and now has at least 11 years teaching and coaching experience.
The “Decision” portion of the Bulloch County school board’s Monday letter to Rountree states:
“The Board has concluded that Superintendent Wilson presented sufficient evidence to prove that you engaged in a “[w]illful neglect of duties” with respect to the above-referenced student on December 2, 2022.
“As authorized by (citing a specific subsection of Georgia law), the Board suspends you without pay for 60 calendar days from the date of this correspondence. You shall provide no services for Bulloch County Schools and shall receive no compensation, but you shall be considered an employee on suspended status, during that time.”
No appeal expected
A further section advises Rountree of his right to appeal the local board’s decision to the State Board of Education.
But Francys Johnson, as his attorney, said in a phone interview Tuesday that Rountree does not plan to appeal the decision.
“Mr. Rountree is a longtime educator who loves teaching and goes to school every day looking to positively impact the students in his care,” Johnson said. “It was never Mr. Rountree’s intent to harm a student, and in fact he didn’t realize that this was a student until he had pushed what he perceived to be a threat away from him. The student apologized to Mr. Rountree; he stated during the hearing that he knew that Mr. Rountree did not intend to harm him.”
Johnson said the video shows that as soon as Rountree realized this was a student, he helped the student up. Beyond the scope of the video, Rountree takes the student to be seen by the school nurse and “ultimately he reports the incident to the administration,” his attorney said.
“I think all of those things were considerations of the board, and they determined to recognize that, while teachers should never place their hands on students, there are circumstances that mean an educator shouldn’t lose their job,”
Teachers who had worked with Rountree in Augusta and Statesboro vouched for his character and his willingness to serve students and assist colleagues, according to his attorney.
“He is grateful for the wisdom of the board in their decision, and he is looking forward to returning to class,” Johnson said.
This is the second time a Bulloch County Schools educator has been scheduled for a fair dismissal hearing over an incident caught on video this school year. In fact, the incidents occurred at different schools less than three weeks apart.
A January school board hearing for Patrick M. Hill, a Mattie Lively Elementary School assistant principal charged by police with simple battery in a case involving a 7-year-old student, was cancelled after Hill took his retirement instead. The incident, also seen in school security video that was released and made public, occurred Nov. 14.
Hill’s misdemeanor criminal accusation is still pending in Bulloch County State Court.
Unlike Hill, Rountree was not charged with any crime. But the Dec. 2 incident was reported to law enforcement and the Department of Family and Children Services, said Hayley Greene, public relations director for the Bulloch County Schools.
“After the school district reported the incident to law enforcement and DFACS, their investigation resulted in no criminal charges being filed,” Greene wrote in an email Tuesday.
Wilson indicated that Rountree is expected to return to work in the school district after his suspension ends, Greene said.