Wesson school officials won’t face charges

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Criminal charges levied against two Wesson Attendance Centeradministrators stemming from an Feb. 21 incident involving astudent with a gun will be dropped, authorities said.

Criminal affidavits against Principal Billy O. Britt andAssistant Principal Ronald Greer alleging the administrators failedto notify the proper authorities of the incident, and a separatecharge that Britt refused to cooperate in the subsequentinvestigation, were to be dropped this morning, said Wesson PoliceChief Steve Carlisle.

“Nothing has been filed yet, but the information that I have isthat they will be dropped,” said Wesson city prosecutor BobLawrence.

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Carlisle referred questions on the dropping of charges to MayorAlton Shaw.

“My involvement was more of a liaison part, attempting tonegotiate an agreement between law enforcement and the school,”Shaw said. “The entire matter from our point of view comes down tosafety, we wanted to be assured that if a similar situation arosethat it would be handled a different way. The agreement we havereached assures us of that.”

Shaw said he has spoken with Copiah County School DistrictSuperintendent Rickey Clopton and they agreed a meeting of allinvolved parties would be held to establish a better line ofcommunication between the police and the school. In addition,changes would be made to the school policy and handbook to ensure asimilar situation does not occur.

“I want to personally thank our law enforcement for followingthe law and doing their job, even in the face of controversy,” Shawsaid. “Sometimes it’s not easy doing what is right, but they eachacted professionally, and we owe them a great deal of respect fortheir actions.”

Britt did not comment Monday afternoon, except to say that “wejust thank God that He saw us all through this.”

Jim Kitchens , attorney for Britt and Greer, said he was “veryconfident that the innocence of these men would have beenestablished had the matter proceeded through the courts.”

However, court action would have been a long process, Lawrencesaid.

Prior to the charges being dropped, a probable cause hearingthat was scheduled for today was postponed when Judge Lamar Pickardrecused himself from the case, Lawrence said. Citing a conflict ofinterest, Pickard withdrew because he is personally represented byone of the attorneys in the case, Lawrence said.

Pickard’s recusal meant the case could not proceed until theMississippi Supreme Court appointed an interim judge to the case,Lawrence said.

Under state law, before a teacher can be charged with committinga crime while in the performance of their duties, there must be aprobable cause hearing to determine if there is sufficientevidence. The law was enacted to protect certain positions ofauthority from undue incarceration.

The charges stemmed from an incident in which a seventh-gradestudent brought a handgun from home onto the campus.

Britt has said the incident was not serious enough to warrantpolice intervention because the student never posed a danger toother students, had no bullets and never displayed the pistol in athreatening manner. He said he consulted the district’s attorneyand followed district policy.