Although criminal charges were dropped against him, former Weaver Middle School teacher Samuel McPhee Jr. fears the allegations of a 14-year-old student may follow him forever.
McPhee, 24, was placed on administrative leave with pay on April 24 after the student accused McPhee of touching him inappropriately during a music lesson at school.
Bibb County District Attorney Greg Winters said Thursday the student’s allegation “couldn’t be corroborated” after further investigation, and charges were dropped.
The past four months have been tough for McPhee, a Fitzgerald native who landed his first job in Macon after graduating from Albany State University.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
His life changed on April 24, when five students walked into his classroom during his planning period, near the end of the day.
They needed help preparing solos for a concert coming up in May, McPhee recalled.
At some point, three of the students left, and McPhee was in his office with the 14-year-old while another boy was doing homework just outside his open office door.
McPhee said he put his hand over the teenager’s diaphragm and pushed as he sang as a part of breathing exercises. McPhee said his hand was above the boy’s belt and navel.
At some point, the boy said “What are you doing?” and stormed out, McPhee said.
He said he tried to follow the boy and talk to him, but he wouldn’t talk to McPhee.
That afternoon McPhee was called into the school’s office and told he’d been accused of inappropriately touching the student. He said he was told to gather his belongings, leave campus and report to the school board’s downtown office the following morning.
At the board office, he received a letter that stated he had inappropriately touched the boy. He was placed on administrative leave with pay.
“I still didn’t know exactly what the student was saying,” McPhee said. “I’m trying to think, what did this student say? What did I do? I didn’t do anything wrong.”
He feared he might lose the chance to teach children to sing. Raised in a single-parent home in a rough neighborhood, music became an outlet for McPhee after a middle school teacher offered support.
“Anytime I felt down I’d sing or write a song,” McPhee said.
An arrest warrant released in May showed the boy accused McPhee of putting his hand inside the boy’s pants and touching his genital area through a hole in his boxers.
McPhee was at home days later when Bibb County deputies knocked on his door. They charged him with sexual assault and took him to the Bibb County jail where he stayed two days and three nights until his grandfather posted his bail.
After a short stay in Fitzgerald, McPhee returned to Macon where he stayed home for a couple of weeks.
Some days he didn’t eat or get out of bed. He was afraid to go into public or to church.
“I never knew if somebody would think it was true and would try to kill me,” he said. “I was broken.”
In May, with the case still pending, Bibb County schools didn’t renew the first-year chorus teacher’s contract, said Brad Wilson, McPhee’s lawyer.
McPhee has applied for jobs and has been turned down -- even after the charges against him were dropped July 17.
Earlier this month officials at another school district told him they couldn’t take the political risk of hiring him.
He still doesn’t have a job.
“I’m afraid this is going to stop me from being able to teach,” McPhee said.
McPhee still is working to resolve a report the Bibb County school system filed with the Professional Standards Commission after the student’s accusation, Wilson said.
McPhee said he wants to have his record expunged and his mug shot removed from the Internet. But still, he’s afraid parents who hear his former student’s allegations may be suspicious and not trust him with their children.
“I feel like it’ll always be there,” he said.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.