October 5-- A federal judge says the Montgomery County school system was within the law in 2007 in the way it terminated former high school ag teacher Chris Bowman.
Judge Dudley Bowen Jr. gave a two-hour explanation before announcing his decision Wednesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Dublin.
Bowman claimed he was fired in retaliation for reporting an alleged sexual affair between a high school counselor and a student at Montgomery County High School and that school officials attempted to keep him for getting his teaching certificate and from gaining employment elsewhere.
Judge Bowen felt Bowman's reporting of the alleged affair was protected by federal law, but said he went too far by actively helping with the intitial phase of the investigation which included secretly taping two students at the high school.
Bowman reported allegations about counselor Carrie O'Connor who is also the daughter of the school superintedent at the time, Dale Clark.
"I think it was a fair decison and I think if this had not happend that my daughter nor I would have ever been in the situation we were put in," Clark says.
The former superintendent says Judge Bowen's decison vindicates the school system for following policy and procedure. However, she has concerns that some current school board members supported Bowman and his lawsuit.
"I would hope this would begin to build a little faith in the people, but I don't know since some of the people who were involved in this have been removed from their positions. The judge made wonderful glowing comments about Luke Smith and the job he did, but yet he was removed from the high school. The thing that really bothers me about all this is the fact that some of the people who supported Chris Bowman monetarily and also gave him support emotionally and encouraged him to go forward are now sitting on our board of education," she observes.
The federal case in the last in a series of court actions stemming from the Carrie O'Connor case and current Superintendent Randy Rodgers is looking to the future.
"We need to move forward. We need to be doing the things that bring closure to a lot of situations in Montgomery County. We need to be focusing on what is the best interest of children rather than dealing with some of these things," he said.
Judge Bowen ordered Bowman to pay court costs relating to the suit. The former teacher is now employed at a wheel manufacturing facility in Rome, Georgia. He said, "I'm glad to have finally gotten my day in court."