ALBANY — A Dougherty County grand jury has returned indictments on rape charges against two students in the Dougherty County public school system in unrelated cases.
Indicted are 15-year-old Fanoris Jermaine Jackson and 16-year-old Shannon Lee Saunders, said Dougherty District Attorney Gregory Edwards.
If tried as adults on rape charges, and that is currently the plan, Jackson, a Monroe High School student, and Saunders, of Westover High School, could be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years and a maximum of life in prison, Edwards said.
“We are currently exploring all aspects of the cases,” Edwards said. “We will see what prosecution it merits in terms of the overall situation.”
Jackson is accused of raping a 15-year-old girl, a fellow student, in a Monroe High School restroom on Sept. 16 during school hours. Jackson remains in Dougherty County Jail on the charges, a jail spokeswoman said.
Saunders, who plays on the Westover football team, was indicted for a May 23 rape and aggravated assault of a 15-year-old girl in the school auditorium while school was out. His alleged victim is not a student at Westover, said Westover Principal William Chunn.
“This happened over the summer and legally I could not take action until school started,” Chunn said. “On the first day of school, Shannon (Saunders) received a 10-day suspension and was referred to the disciplinary tribunal.”
Chunn also kept Saunders from athletics at the school until he came before the tribunal. The tribunal met late in September.
The tribunal, composed of retired school administrators, heard Saunders plead innocent and no incriminating evidence was presented at the tribunal, Chunn said. The tribunal postponed any action until the criminal trial is completed, he added.
Saunders returned to classes after his 10-day suspension and the football team after the tribunal met. He missed the first four games of the season, Chunn said. Westover football coach Octavia Jones had “no comment on the situation” about Saunders status on the team, but Saunders played Friday night.
According to Dougherty County School District attorney Tommy Coleman, the general policy covering situations where a student might be denied access to school has two elements. The student must have been arrested and the student must be deemed a danger to others at the school.
Under that policy, Saunders, innocent until proven guilty, will be allowed to continue as a regular student until his trial ends, Coleman said. If he is found guilty the tribunal would take action.
Edwards emphasized that despite these two indictments, the schools are safe places for students, faculty and staff.
“The school police took care of the investigations,” Edwards said. “They were individual acts and do not reflect on school security or the environment of the school.”