(By Joe Koletar)For a small word, “sad” seems to sometimes act as a compass that points in many directions.

The issue of cheating in the Atlanta Public School system has been national news for some time, but in recent days, teachers, principals, and administrators have felt the scales of justice tilt to destroy their careers, reputations, and brand them criminals to be confined to jail cells.

One is left to wonder “Why” and “How?”

How could such educated, normal, and apparently decent people, find themselves in the clutches of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, a law originally designed to combat organized crime?

One finds it hard to believe that a person intent on crime for profit would bother to get a college degree and enter the low-paying teaching profession. Then, why?

Was it a casual suggestion that a few kids needed just a bit of “help?” Was it seen as just a one-time thing to fudge a few numbers? Was an already- established culture a norm for new arrivals? Was there pressure from the top with “suggestions” or actual threats that those who did not cooperate would be dealt with? Were there financial benefits to some, or even many?

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story is the stance taken by some teachers and administrators when the handwriting on the wall could be clearly seen. Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter was bombarded with testimonials and pleas for mercy. He even postponed the sentencing date to allow those already convicted and their attorneys to negotiate plea deals, in exchange for a more lenient sentence, if they would publicly admit their guilt. Some chose not to do so.

This seems to make no sense. The evidence was presented over a five month trial. A jury had come back with guilty verdict after guilty verdict. Those accused were not career criminals but were now faced with sharing cells with violent felons, yet they refused to take the final step that would lessen their impending punishment.

Were they in denial? Did they believe it was all just a big misunderstanding? Had they come to believe a separate bad person who just happened to inhabit their bodies did these things, and they could not bring themselves to publicly apologize on behalf of the other “person?”

The quest for answers is worth beginning.

In the meantime, the compass needle of “sad” continues to swing: Sad teachers and administrators. Sad parents. Sad students who now realize they are not as well-prepared as they had been told they were. A sad city. A sad profession. Sad taxpayers.

“Sad” seems prone to make up its mind rather quickly.

Join us for more insights into behavioral forensics (behind fraud and similar white collar crimes) from the authors of ABCs of Behavioral Forensics (Wiley, 2013): Sri Ramamoorti, Ph. D., Daven Morrison, M.D., and Joe Koletar, D.P.A., along with Vic Hartman, J.D. These distinguished experts come from the disciplines of psychology, medicine, accounting, law, and law enforcement to explain and prevent fraud. Because we are inspired to bring to light and address the fraud problems in today’s headlines, we encourage our readers to come back and revisit us regularly at

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