ShareThis Page

Lawyer: Teacher seen kissing now missing Tennessee student

| Monday, March 20, 2017, 10:42 p.m.

NASHVILLE — A teacher now accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old female student in Tennessee had been investigated by the school system after another student reported seeing the teacher kiss the girl, a lawyer for the missing girl's family said.

Yet according to attorney Jason Whatley and school records, teacher Tad Cummins was allowed to continue working at Tennessee's Culleoka Unit School for two weeks. Culleoka is a community about 60 miles south of Nashville near the state line with Alabama.

Student Elizabeth Thomas was last seen March 13 and is believed to be with the 50-year-old teacher, authorities said.

In late January another student saw the teacher kissing the girl on the lips, school records provided to the AP from Whatley show.

Despite the report from the other student, Cummins was allowed to continue teaching and nobody in the school system bothered notifying the girl's family about the allegations about the kiss, Whatley added. He said the school system must have not believed the student's report of seeing Cummins kiss the girl on the lips.

“This is my client's daughter and she's been taken, she's been abducted and I can't figure out for the life of me why no one believed this middle school student,” Whatley said.

The father, Whatley said, only learned of the kissing allegation a week later after a detective with the Maury County Sheriff's Department went to the home to investigate.

The school system didn't suspend Cummins until Feb. 6, the day that a letter from the father's attorney was hand-delivered to Maury County school officials. The letter to Maury County School Superintendent Christopher Marczak demanded that the father be updated on what school officials had learned and that his daughter not have contact with the teacher.

The girl's father, Anthony Thomas, is outraged that officials delayed telling him about the report and let the teacher continue working in the school, according to the lawyer.

“My client's position, respectfully, is that Mr. Cummins should have been out the door until the police investigation was completed,” Whatley said.

Maury County School Superintendent Dr. Christopher Marczak did not return a call seeking comment.

School officials did send files to the father after the lawyer sent the letter.

The school's investigative files provided to the father show that both Cummins and the girl denied kissing. The teacher, however, acknowledged that the girl was “a really good friend and she does leave her other classes to come see him when she needs someone to calm her down,” according to a school investigative report dated Jan. 30.

The report said the allegation could not be confirmed, but recommended that the girl be taken out of Cummins' forensics class and that he be reprimanded to uphold his professional responsibility as a teacher. The report also recommended that the administration monitor Cummins classroom to make sure students weren't there when they weren't supposed to be.

The teacher would later be reprimanded on Feb. 3 by school principal Penny Love after the girl was seen in Cummins classroom for a little more than half an hour that day. In her letter, Love said the girl being in his classroom was “a violation of my director order to you” of Jan. 31.

The teacher was fired a day after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued an Amber Alert about the teen.

TBI officials said they remain concerned about the girl's safety because there has been so few sightings reported. The agency has issued two nationwide alerts to law enforcement, TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.