Missing teen went on field trip with her alleged kidnapper - WSMV News 4

Missing teen went on field trip with her alleged kidnapper

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Elizabeth Thomas and Tad Cummins disappeared last Monday. (WSMV) Elizabeth Thomas and Tad Cummins disappeared last Monday. (WSMV)
COLUMBIA, TN (WSMV) -

The Maury County Public School district is promising better communication as it copes with the disappearance of 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas.

Investigators believe Thomas was kidnapped by her teacher, 50-year-old Tad Cummins, last Monday.

Channel 4 has uncovered new information about where Thomas and Cummins were allowed to go together after they were allegedly caught kissing in a classroom.

"It wasn't like a make out kiss. Just a peck on the lips." That's what a student at Culleoka Unit School told school authorities on Jan. 24 when describing the alleged classroom kiss between Cummins and Thomas.

The school then launched its own investigation. On Jan. 27, Thomas was removed from Cummins’ classroom.

Channel 4 has learned that same day, the district allowed Thomas and Cummins to go on a field trip together.

"Every parent listening to this would agree with me that that should not take place," said Jason Whatley, Thomas’ family attorney.

Whatley said he has been talking to the district’s attorney. He said Thomas and Cummins were not told to stay away from each other while the school's investigation took place.

"If there is an allegation of inappropriate contact, it's done, no contact until we figure out what's going on. That's easy. That's easy. We're making it way more complicated than it needs to be," Whatley said.

Whatley also talked to Thomas’ family. He said her father is outraged.

“That’s the reaction, I would argue, or every single parent who knows these facts,” he said.

Maury County School Superintendent Dr. Chris Marczak continues to deny Channel 4’s request for an interview, but Friday the district sent a statement saying "all policies and procedures were followed."

The district also announced the creation of a task force designed to improve how it reacts and how it communicates with the public when bad things happen at school.

"The fact of it is, you don't need a task force to tell you to notify parents if there's an allegation that your daughter has been kissed by a teacher. That's easy. That's really easy. How about this? We'll have that meeting right now. Everybody in favor say aye. We're done," Whatley said.

“We are absolutely committed to help ensure that this kind of situation is never repeated in the future, and this task force is our first step in that plan of action,” Marczak said.

Whatley wants the focus to remain on finding Thomas. His office has now launched its own investigation.

"So if you're listening, if you’re from the Maury County area, if you knew Elizabeth, if you knew Tad Cummins, if you were at that school and you think you have information, we want it," Whatley said.

The new Culleoka task force will meet for the first time on April 7. We're told they will meet periodically over the next few weeks and will make recommendations to the school board in May.

The district has now hired a public relations firm, which sent out the task force press release Friday. We're still waiting to hear how much the district is paying for those services.

Marczak sent the following statement to parents on Friday afternoon:

On the eve of Spring Break, I felt compelled to reach out to you.  As you know and have heard by now, we have had a tragedy that has shaken the Culleoka and Maury County community where former teacher, Tad  Cummins, has allegedly abducted a Culleoka freshman, Elizabeth Thomas.  The Maury County School system is hoping and praying for her safe return.  Please continue to get out the Amber Alerts and let people know that Elizabeth is still out there.

Each and every day, our dedicated teachers, principals, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, support staff, and more are working to ensure that your children receive the best education in the State of Tennessee.  We are proud to work with you, parents, in ensuring that ALL Maury County children are raised in a supportive, safe and nurturing environment.  The stronger our bond, the greater outcomes your child will have! 

We encourage you to have regular dialogue with your children about their school days and how they feel about coming to MCPS every day.  If at any time, your child expresses something that seems off or wrong, please do not hesitate to report it to a school Principal, the Central Office, or the authorities.  We are sorry that this tragedy has befallen the Thomas family, and we ask that you join us to be as vigilant as possible in what you see, observe and communicate to help ensure that no other family has to endure what they are enduring now.

I am pleased to let you know that the Maury County Public School system is launching a task force that will evaluate current parental-notification policies and make recommendations for process-improvements or stronger checks-and-balances that can be immediately implemented and also communicated back out to the larger community.  This committee, comprised of both internal and external stakeholders, will convene for about 6-8 weeks and will make recommendations to the School Board.  We are working with local news media to make sure that the formation and ultimate recommendations of this task force are communicated to the larger community, so that all of us remain informed and engaged.

Thank you for your support of MCPS.  You are appreciated...more than you know!  Now more than ever, we need to band together to be the best school system that we can be for ALL kids and each other.  Culleoka needs our prayers, well wishes, and warm thoughts.  Whatever we can do to make them know that we love and care about them, will go a long way!

If you, or anyone you know, has a tip about the whereabouts of either Tad Cummins or Elizabeth Thomas, please call 1-800-TBI-FIND.

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