A former Southwest DeKalb High School chorus teacher was cleared of charges related to a 2008 incident where students in his class stripped and pantomimed sex acts with other students to music, a jury ruled last month.
Nathan Grigsby was found not guilty on five counts of contributing to the deprivation of a minor, the jury ruled March 31. The case also included the testimony of three former students who were charged separately in the December 2008 incident shortly before Grigsby’s trial began.
Grigsby declined to comment through his attorney, Jackie Patterson, who said he was hoping the state would drop its charges against the three former students, Jerramy Bartlett, Joe’l Shumate and Kiyon Benton. All three were charged with public indecency and disrupting a public school. They graduated last year.
“To charge them on the day of the trial after a year and a half later, that was simply uncalled for,” Patterson said. “This was an intimidation tactic. (Solicitor-General Robert James) believed… that they would freeze up and not testify for Mr. Grigsby, and, fortunately, he was wrong.”
James said the students will be arraigned next month. He said he could have arrested the students, which would have left them incarcerated with charges that wouldn’t be expunged from their record.
“We sought to be as compassionate and even-handed as possible,” he said. “This case, the entire time, was about decency, morality and values with our children. We expect them to be educated when they go to school. We do not expect that they will be part in a lewd sex show. … If that happens again, people should expect to see the same result. This was a case that needed to be tried, and we did.”
James, in his opening statement on March 29, told the jury that Grigsby watched happily on Dec. 11 as the three students danced to sexually suggestive music while pantomiming sex acts with three female students in front of an excited class without stopping them. He told the jury Grigsby turned the classroom into a “two-bit strip club.”
Bartlett, Shumate and Benton danced to the song “Meeting in My Bedroom” by Atlanta R&B group Silk “while the defendant, Mr. Grigsby, smiled and laughed,” James said.
Patterson said Grigsby didn’t see or hear the majority of the performance because he was helping another student with his back turned while wearing “studio-quality” headphones. Once he turned around, he quickly shut off the music and eventually punished the students.
Bartlett and Shumate, both 19 years old, defended Grigsby on March 30. The students’ testimony was repeatedly cautioned by Judge Johnny Panos who reminded the students that because they had been charged, anything they said during the trial could be used by the prosecution against them. Bartlett and Shumate both said they understood and wanted to defend their former teacher.
“He was a great mentor,” Shumate said. “He would never do anything to put us at harm.”
Grigsby is currently teaching music at Agnes Scott College and has said he would like to return to teaching in the county.