The Atlanta Public Schools system has signed a consent order promising to “cease and desist” from further in-house investigation of a high-level official who allegedly urged principals not to cooperate with the state investigation of test score cheating.

Atlanta school board members had voted unanimously at their Feb. 21 meeting to seek the consent order.

Fulton County Judge Doris Downs and APS representatives and state investigators signed the consent order Tuesday, Feb. 22, one day after it was announced that Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig L. Schwall had issued a temporary restraining order to force APS to cease its internal inquiry.

Schwall approved a motion Feb. 20 by the state investigators to restrain the Atlanta Public Schools from questioning witnesses to a Nov. 17 meeting at which Tamara Cotman, an area superintendent, reportedly encouraged about a dozen principals to refuse to cooperate with the state investigation of cheating on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT). Cotman reportedly told the principals to tell state investigators to “go to hell.”

In a statement issued Feb. 21 Superintendent Beverly Hall said the district “will honor the court’s order, as well as continue to cooperate with the investigation.”

In court documents, the state investigators said the school district has been “withholding evidence and intimidating witnesses whose unvarnished testimony could lead to the discovery of how much upper-level APS administrators know about the widespread cheating.”

John Schaffner

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.