The Dooly County School Superintendent is standing up for Dooly County students who he says were profiled and wrongly accused of theft during a recent field trip.
In a letter released to parents, Craig Lockhart stood up for the students and criticized what they were put through.
Below is his letter in its entirety for you to read for yourself.
Dear Parents of Dooly Middle School Students: On March 10, 2023, our 6*, 7th, and gth grade students attended an off-campus field trip hosted by an external organization. During the field trip, an expensive piece of equipment allegedly disappeared. In the process of finding the equipment, adult and student testimonies strongly indicated that our students were unjustly accused of taking the item. Following standard procedure, our students’ bags were searched, which helped to clear them of wrongdoing. At the end of the investigation, not only were our students found innocent, but the equipment was also discovered, and no Dooly students were involved in its loss.
Despite being found innocent in the event, no acknowledgement of the mistake or formal apology was issued from the organization to our students. The students, according to testimony, felt judged and marginalized even though they had not been found guilty of any nefarious activity. This left many students and parents feeling confused, angry, and hurt that they were accused of a theft they did not commit.
As Superintendent of the Dooly County School System, I am also very angry and frustrated. This is the first time many of our students have experienced profiling or social injustice in which they were judged guilty before being proven innocent. To this end, I have terminated our relationship with the organization that hosted this event. I will not tolerate any mistreatment of our students, and severing ties with this organization is the only option I see for protecting the integrity of our children.
Let me be perfectly clear: these are our children. When they make mistakes, we hold them accountable. When they are innocent, however, we will defend them to the very end. These are not only my children, but they are under the protection and care of the school leadership, faculty, staff, and the board of education itself. You trust us to take care of your children, and we take that honor very seriously.
As I close, I want to thank Principal Dr. Hollie Walters for her fierce advocacy for her students. She defended them as one would expect any loving mother to do. Also, School Resource Officer Captain David Jones went above and beyond by thoroughly investigating this matter and making sure that our students were cleared of a false accusation. I am proud to say that our school system employees are dedicated to protecting our students.
Since this event, we are using this moment as an opportunity to teach our students about fairness and not rushing to judgment. We will take this unfortunate situation and grow from it, thus providing our students with a more well-rounded education.
Parents, thank you for sharing your students with us. They are wonderful children, and they can compete with any student in the state and beyond. Just know that we are here when you need us, and rest assured that your child’s safety is our top priority. Your support is appreciated.
About Dooly County: Dooly County is home to around 14,000 residents, with a racial makeup of 50% African American and 45% White. The median household income is about $36,000. In terms of education, about 65% of the population have a high school diploma, while around 10% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.