Asst. DA sends message about reporting inappropriate relationshi - WSMV Channel 4

Asst. DA sends message about reporting inappropriate relationships

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Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Chad Butler (WSMV) Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Chad Butler (WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Chad Butler said his office sees relationships like Elizabeth Thomas' and Tad Cummins' more often than people would think and more often than they would like.

While cases in Metro have not led to an Amber Alert and extensive national search, the behavior is not foreign to local prosecutors.

"We really see that all the time in here, those inappropriate relationships between students and teachers," Butler said. "When you send your child to school, you expect a type of professionalism between the student and the person that you send them to be taught by."

In the last couple years, dozens of teachers in school districts across Nashville and surrounding counties have been suspended and even arrested for having sexual relationships with their students.

The problem Butler said his office sees in Metro is, many times, other teachers may know about the inappropriate relationships, but don't tell police. He said there are cases being worked on right now where Metro teachers did not report to authorities.

"Maybe the administrators told the teachers not to report it, that they would handle it internally and they would handle it if they felt it was necessary. We see it all the time," Butler said. "Oftentimes that is an issue. People in positions of authority, administrators in schools are reluctant, whether it be out of fear that they're going get a bad reputation or some type of embarrassment."

But delaying to report is not only illegal, Butler said it can hurt the investigation.

"Oftentimes, the best information, the best evidence, that we are going to get is from the early start of an investigation, when we catch a suspect off guard," Butler said. "When school administrators are trying to do their own investigations internally and maybe try to prevent things from being reported to police, it obviously impairs our ability to investigate it fully and prosecute it fully."

In Maury County, some parents whose children attended school at Culleoka Unit School with Cummins claimed that other teachers knew about the relationship and that the district was slow to act.

Channel 4 interviewed Ronni Edwards who said Cummins groomed her daughter when she was his student

"It's not just the school, it's the teachers too," Edwards said. "You know full well that those other teachers were aware about the incident that took place in that classroom. Everybody knew... Another teacher had to have seen that child go into that classroom and that teacher should've been big enough to stand up and say, uh uh, this isn't going to happen."

"It is unacceptable, and teachers need to realize that despite what an administrator or higher ups may be telling them, the law says if they know about it they have to personally report it to law enforcement or DCS no questions asked," Butler said.

Metro Nashville Public Schools called the allegation from the DA's office "highly unusual." The district responded in a statement:

We work closely with all law enforcement agencies and Metro general counsel to address issues of student health and safety.

Under no circumstance is it appropriate for any administrator to suppress reporting any instance in which a child is endangered. To do so violates the ethical and licensure standards administrators are held to. Furthermore, once notified, Metro Schools will investigate any instance of report suppression and immediately follow up with all necessary parties.

This allegation is highly unusual and we encourage the DA's office to notify Metro Schools of any instance of report suppression so we can address this issue immediately.

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