STEALING FROM THE STATE: Civil suit dismissed, refiled with changes

Jessica Barnett, The News Courier, Athens, Ala.
·2 min read

Apr. 20—A lawsuit filed last week against two former local superintendents and seven other companies or individuals related to a multiyear scheme that involved student identity theft has been refiled in a different court system with an additional defendant and other changes, records show.

The original lawsuit was filed by the father of one of the scheme's victims, a Jackson Academy student who had her information taken and used to enroll her in a public virtual school, all without the family's knowledge, according to court records. It was filed in the Eufaula portion of Barbour County, where another private school used in the scheme, Lakeside School, is located.

Will League, one of the attorneys representing the victim's family, said the case was refiled due to a technicality. It now rests in the Clayton portion of the Barbour County Circuit Court.

When refiling, the bulk of the complaint remained the same. The defendants are accused of causing financial, emotional and mental harm to the plaintiff and others by stealing and using sensitive information in a scheme that financially benefitted the defendants.

The scheme, which is also the center of a federal case against the individuals named in the lawsuit, involved enrolling private school students into public virtual schools, then allowing the state to count those students as part of the public school systems' average daily membership, which would then lead to more funding for the school systems — and, in turn, the individuals.

"As a result of Defendants' carefully planned scheme to prey on innocent students and to steal their identities, falsify educational documents and State records, betray Alabama parents of students with lies and deception, and justify their behavior to line their own financial pockets, the individual Defendants and Defendant companies received millions of dollars," the lawsuit reads. "This lawsuit seeks justice for these children and their families."

Named in the original lawsuit were former Athens City Schools Superintendent Trey Holladay; former Limestone County Schools Superintendent Tom Sisk; Holladay's wife, Deborah Holladay; retired educator Gregory Earl Corkren; former Marengo Academy football coach David Webb Tutt; ACS Director of Planning Rick Carter; Tutt Educational Services LLC; Sage Professional Development LLC; and Integra Ventures LLC. The refiled suit adds Educational Opportunities and Management LLC, a company owned by Corkren, to the list of defendants.

The refiled lawsuit also estimates "more than 15" people could join as members of the putative class if the lawsuit is upgraded to a class action suit. Previously, the estimation was "approximately 94."