DeKalb County School Board finds Dr. Joyce Morley violated ethics code

Board of Education member Dr. Joyce Morley speaks during a COVID delayed ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Indian Creek Elementary School in Clarkston on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (Courtesy of Dean Hesse.)

The DeKalb County School Board on May 31 found that Dr. Joyce Morley violated the district’s ethics code during the school board’s recent superintendent search.

Morley did not attend the May 31 hearing about the complaint against her because the school district would not pay for an attorney to represent her, according to Alex M. Shalishali, an attorney who represented the school board during the hearing.

The board voted 6-0 to disavow Morley’s conduct in speaking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about matters that were discussed in executive session. Those conversations concerned hiring Dr. Devon Horton as the district’s new superintendent. The board hired Horton 6-1, with Morley voting “no.”

Morley previously told the AJC that the complaint is about silencing her.

School Board member Vickie Turner said she took no joy in voting to disavow Morley’s statement.

“I do understand the why of it,” Turner said. “I just may not share any joy in this. I’m going to support the vote but I wanted to make that statement. I support policy. That’s what we’re going to lean on. This is not personal. It never has been, but it’s protecting the policy. Why have them if we’re not going to adhere to them?”

School Board Chair Diijon DaCosta said during the hearing that Morley’s statements to the AJC were a direct reference to the discussions in executive session and she could not have obtained that information elsewhere.

his is not the first time Morley has been accused of undermining a superintendent search. Rudy Crew, a finalist for superintendent who never got the job after the board decided not to hire him, won a $750,000 settlement after accusing the school board of discrimination. In the suit, Crew, who is Black, accused Dr. Morley of making comments about Crew’s late wife being white.

Morley has an opportunity to appeal the school board’s May 31 ruling.

“A Board member subject to sanction may, within thirty (30) days of such sanction vote, appeal such decision to the State Board of Education in accordance with the rules and regulations of the State Board of Education,” the board’s ethics code says. “A record of the decision of the Board to sanction a Board member for a violation of this Code of Ethics shall be placed in the permanent minutes of the Board.”