The Culleoka Unit School teacher who allegedly ran away with 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas was allowed to remain on the faculty for two weeks after a reported impropriety with the freshman.
Health sciences teacher Tad Cummins, 50, was caught kissing Thomas at school by another student Jan. 23, according to the attorney for the teenager’s father, Anthony Thomas. The school was informed of the incident Jan. 24 and allowed Cummins to remain in the classroom until Feb. 6 — two weeks later — while Maury County Public Schools and Maury County Sheriff’s Department investigated, Columbia attorney Jason Whatley said Thursday.
“Our client was only informed of the incident on Jan. 31,” Whatley told The Daily Herald. “All of his focus is on finding his daughter, and finding her alive. But we have grave concerns about the school’s delay in telling Mr. Thomas and for allowing him to remain in the classroom.”
The Maury County School District released a statement Wednesday, saying it suspended Cummins as soon as it was notified of the allegations.
“That is just flat out not true,” Whatley said. “I was shocked they put that out. We have concerns about how they [school administrators] are handling this.
“We have to work together to get this child back, and we do not need false information out there,” Whatley said. “Every teacher and student and Culleoka knew the truth. Every parent in Culleoka is going to be outraged when they find out he was still around after the allegations arose.”
Cummins was given due process, Maury Schools spokesperson Kim Doddridge said. He was fired Tuesday after being charged with sexual contact with a minor.
“A student (not Thomas) filed a report with Culleoka Unit School administration on Jan. 24,” Doddridge said. “The next day, Jan. 25, Culleoka Unit School administration contacted the central office concerning the report, and the investigation began and continued to Jan. 31, when results of the investigation were delivered to the teacher.
“During the investigation, both the teacher and the student were instructed to have no contact. The student was transferred out of Cummins’ class. At that time, there were no findings to substantiate suspension of the teacher. The suspension on Feb. 6 was precipitated by insubordination by Mr. Cummins. There was a continuing investigation by the Maury County Sheriff’s Office. Cummins’ dismissal on March 14 was a result of the TBI’s issuance of the alert.”
Thomas kept showing up in Cummins’ class, despite the warning, and was given an in-school suspension, Whatley said.