Atlanta, Georgia — Fulton County Judge Henry Newkirk has granted immunity to Melanie Pickens, a former special education teacher accused of abusing students. Paul Howard, the District Attorney on the case has already filed an appeal.
Newkirk acknowledged the allegations were horrible, but said the current Georgia law protects teachers who discipline students. “Ms. Pickens did act in good faith in carrying out her teaching duties for her students,” he said. Teachers are protected by state law because they need to be able to take appropriate disciplinary action without having to face potential lawsuits or criminal charges.
Assistant District Attorney Jay Hughes argued the immunity statute doesn’t apply to Pickens. She gave the example of a south Georgia assistant principal flogging a student for truancy, per a school policy. The student became injured because the paddle was warped, but the assistant principal was disciplining the student in good faith per policy.
“That’s what the statute is for, not for the egregious behavior of Ms. Pickens,” said Hughes.
Fulton County school paraprofessional Judy Massey testified on the behalf of the DA stating she found student Jake Marshall restrained in a special chair, covered in feces, after Pickens had ordered him isolated for “half the day” for disturbing the class.
When Massey confronted Pickens about what happened, she said Pickens said: “Oh, don’t tell nobody.”
Massey previously pleaded the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination on the witness stand, but agreed to testify only after prosecutors announced they would not pursue criminal charges against her abuses. On the stand, Massey admitted she isolated another student, Aaron Hatcher, but said it was because Pickens told her to do so.
According to multiple reports, Pickens’ alleged abuse dates back a decade.
The family of Aaron Hatcher recently created a petition to reverse the decision by Judge Henry Newkirk — please view, sign and share with your social networks. Georgia Court of Appeals to Reverse The Decision by Judge Henry Newkirk — click here.