Dougherty County School Police Assistant Chief J.C. Phillips held a news conference Friday to address the arrest of a volunteer at the South Georgia Regional School of Achievement on three counts of child molestation.
ALBANY, Ga. — The Wednesday arrest of Grady Alexander O’Neal on charges of molesting a 14-year-old female student at South Georgia Regional Achievement Center, where he was known to visit students on a regular basis, has raised questions on how O'Neal, who school officials say has two previous statutory rape convictions, was allowed access to the school and its students.
At a Friday news conference, Dougherty County School System Assistant Police Chief J.C. Phillips admitted a breakdown in the system had allowed O'Neal almost unfettered access to the students.
"(O'Neal) had access to the school for just over a month," adding that none of the alleged incidents had taken place on school property. "As policy we run extensive criminal background checks, when asked, on anyone who will have contact with the children. We're all human and this one slipped through the cracks."
When asked who is responsible for requesting the background checks, Phillips replied, "the building administrator."
In this case, that would be SGRAC Principal John I. Davis. When called Friday for comment, the call went to voicemail and Davis had not responded to a request for comment by presstime.
Earlier in the day. The Herald obtained an email from Dougherty County Schools Director of Public Information R.D. Harter sent late Wednesday to DCSS board members.
"Chief (Troy) Conley just notified me by telephone 34-year-old school volunteer Grady O'Neal was arrested by DCSS police and booked into the Dougherty County jail at about 5:00 p.m. tonight.
"An on-going investigation following a complaint from a female student revealed that he had a large file of former criminal activity including two statutory rape convictions. He was charged with three counts on child molestation and more charges are pending.
"He didn't complete his required background check until yesterday and should not have been working with children. He volunteered at South Georgia Regional Achievement Center. "
Harter's e-mail conflicts with the official record at the Dougherty County Courthouse that shows only one guilty plea for a misdemeanor statutory rape charge. A judge sentenced O'Neal to serve 90 days in jail and nine months on probation in February 2001.
By pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of statutory rape, O'Neal was able to avoid being placed on the state and federal sex offender registry.
O'Neal's official record also shows a conviction for aggravated stalking, a felony, after he violated a temporary protective order and visited his wife at her place of employment in 2005. For that, he was sentenced to serve five years on probation.
O'Neal is currently being held at the Dougherty County jail and no bond has been set.