Ex-Towers High principal defends herself amid theft, forgery case | #teacher | #children | #kids

She was fired in March, which was about four months after she was charged with theft by conversion and fourth-degree forgery. Griffith told Channel 2 that the money in question came from vending machine income, of which 25% goes into the principal’s discretionary fund.

“The money was to be used to provide incentives for the teachers,” she said.

Griffith said she planned to use the money to purchase $20 Walmart gift cards for teachers to accompany customized lanyards and cups that the school district bought. She said she didn’t have the money to pay for those gift cards upfront, which is why she moved the money order to her personal account.

Before she was able to buy the gift cards, she was placed on paid administrative leave. However, that’s when an issue from her past was discovered by school district officials, eventually leading to her termination.

In 2004, Griffith, who worked as a secretary for the Atlanta Police Department as a senior in college, was fired after being arrested on an identity theft charge. She was accused of using a police officer’s credit card to make a $700 purchase at a home improvement store.

The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that her case was handled under the First Offender Act, which means she wasn’t convicted, and her record was expunged after she complied with the judge’s orders. That took place after she applied to work with the DeKalb County School District, and she did not disclose the arrest.

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“The whole point of expungement is so you don’t have to disclose things but some of the forms are very specific,” Manny Arora, Griffith’s attorney, told Channel 2.

Griffith said that experience helped shaped her into the educator she is today, and her past troubles are something she used as a teaching example.

“I have been able to utilize my story with countless students,” she said. “Although I am not proud of my past experience, I am not ashamed, because it has helped shape who I am.”

The school board voted unanimously to fire Griffith.

LaKeisha Griffith

Soon after her termination, an administrative law judge found that she “did not intent to mislead” school officials and reversed a decision to sanction her teaching certificate, Channel 2 reported.

In addition, a school district tribunal ruled in her favor on allegations of willful neglect of duty and immorality, rejecting the recommendation by then-Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson to terminate Griffith’s contract in connection with the money order. A lawyer for Tyson said, “(Griffith) admitted that she took money from the school. And she never paid that money back,” according to documents obtained by the news station.

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Griffith refuted that claim, saying the money was subtracted from her account and refunded. Her charges remain pending, court records show.

In an emailed statement, the DeKalb County School District said: “This is pending litigation. DeKalb County School District has no statement.”

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