Friday, August 31, 2012

Forestview High teacher pleads guilty for distributing drugs to students

Meredith Pruitt, 31, was accused of distributing prescription pills at Forestview High School. Pruitt agreed to a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to three felonies.

Pruitt taught ninth-grade English at Forestview. She entered a guilty plea for conspiracy to sell or deliver a controlled substance, selling or delivering a controlled substance, and possession with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver a controlled substance.

In exchange, several charges were dismissed: manufacturing, selling, delivering or possessing a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, hiring or using a minor to commit a controlled substance offense, promoting drug sales by a minor, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and selling or delivering drugs to a minor.

Pruitt would  have served two to 4 years, 9 months in prison. However, she received a 2½-year suspended sentence with active, supervised probation. She is also banned from being on Forestview High School’s property. A suspended sentences means that if Pruitt does not get in trouble with the law, she will not have to serve time behind bars.

Gaston County Police stated that she gave four Clonazepam pills to a Forestview student, who then sold some of the pills and gave Pruitt some of the money from the sales. Clonazepam is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance. It is sometimes prescribed to control certain types of seizures and relieve panic attacks.

Police issued citations or juvenile petitions for seven students. One student faces felony drug charges. The other six face a misdemeanor.

Pruitt resigned from Gaston County Schools in June. Pruitt denied a public defender and hired Gastonia attorney James Carpenter for legal representation. Pruitt pleaded guilty in Superior Court.

Police Sgt. Josh Hamlin stated that he’s never happy when he has to take out charges against a teacher, but said the plea agreement was fair. “She was a first-time offender and had no prior record. I think the district attorney handled that appropriately,” said Hamlin. “Just like police officers, teachers are held to a higher standard.”

Pruitt will no longer be eligible to teach in Gaston County because of the felonies now on her record. Gaston County Schools hiring policy doesn’t specifically say that teachers with felony records aren’t hired, but no one working for the school system has a felony conviction, he said.

The Gaston County Board of Education policy states: “If a final candidate for employment or hiring as an independent contractor is found to have a criminal record, other than for minor traffic offenses, the superintendent or his designee must determine whether the individual poses a threat to the physical safety of students or personnel or has demonstrated that he or she does not have the integrity or honesty to fulfill the duties of the position.”

The State Board of Education could revoke Pruitt’s teaching license in North Carolina because of the offense.