Appeal in closure of ex-NFL player’s Macon youth center heard in July

A judge will decide whether Macon’s Motivating Youth Foundation -- closed last month while its founder, a former NFL player, was under investigation for allegedly spanking a child there -- can reopen after a hearing in Atlanta next month.

Founder Roger Jackson, who played five seasons for the Denver Broncos in the mid-1980s, was jailed briefly May 26, charged with misdemeanor battery in an alleged spanking incident involving an 8-year-old girl enrolled in the after-school program.

The girl allegedly was struck with a belt “multiple times” on her buttocks while she was at the east Macon center on April 22, according to a Bibb County sheriff’s report.

The Atlanta proceeding is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. July 8 in the Office of State Administrative Hearings.

The state Department of Early Care and Learning, which licenses and monitors child care centers in Georgia, issued an order for emergency closure of the program May 4. The agency issues such orders “when it is determined that the health, safety or welfare of children may be in imminent danger.”

A DECAL investigation found “serious rule violations” related to discipline and required reporting.

“Once the complaint came in, it was a pretty clear-cut case,” Reg Griffin, the agency’s chief communications officer, said Friday. “We don’t take emergency closures lightly.”

Jackson’s attorney, Virgil Adams, said Friday that some parents whose children attended the after-school program had granted permission for their children to be spanked.

The state agency’s rules for child care centers, however, prohibit any corporal or physical punishment of a child. Also, disciplinary actions used to correct a child’s behavior or guidance techniques “shall not be detrimental to the physical or mental health of any child,” the rules state.

The center, at 905 Main St., appealed its closure on May 5. An administrative law judge upheld the closure May 8 and the center has remained closed.

During the July hearing, the department will present witnesses, and Jackson’s defense attorney will also be allowed to call witnesses.

“It’s like any other court case,” Griffin said. “The judge will decide based on the evidence presented whether (closure) was the right action for the agency to take.”

Often, the judge rules the same day, but a decision usually comes quickly, Griffin said.

If the closure is upheld, Motivating Youth would have to remain closed for at least a year.

The day of the closure, state workers were at the site talking to parents and handed out letters explaining what had happened.

The department has been working to find other child care sites for parents whose children were attending the center.

More than 100 children attended the center at times.

Jackson, 56, is widely known here for his efforts to help disadvantaged young people.

His attorney on Friday said the after-school program “does a lot of good.”

“We certainly don’t want to see the program disappear,” Adams said. “I think it would do more harm than good for the program not to be there.”

Oby Brown contributed to this report.