- Associated Press - Friday, April 7, 2017

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The former principal of Greenwood High School has been indicted on charges that she sexually abused a student enrolled at the school in 2015.

Lorita Lynn Harris, now the director of the Greenwood school district’s alternative school, was indicted March 30 in Bolivar County on one count of sexual battery. She waived indictment Tuesday and pleaded not guilty, according to court records.

Greenwood Superintendent Jennifer Wilson told the Greenwood Commonwealth (https://bit.ly/2ob6saA ) that Harris is on administrative leave but declined further comment. Wilson was not superintendent at the time of the alleged incident.

Court records don’t show whether Harris was required to post bail. She did not immediately respond to a phone message or emails seeking comment. The Associated Press was unable to determine the name of Harris’ lawyer.

Harris is accused of engaging in a sexual act with a female under age 18 on May 18, 2015. The incident allegedly occurred when Harris was principal of Greenwood High School and the alleged victim was a student. Harris was principal of 650-student Greenwood High until June 2016 and since has served as director of the 2,700-student district’s alternative school.

The indictment says the act happened in Bolivar County, not Leflore County, where Greenwood is located. Records show Harris lives in Cleveland, the largest town in Bolivar County.

The Mississippi Department of Education had received a complaint about Harris in November 2015, according to a statement from spokeswoman Patrice Guilfoyle. The 2015 complaint detailed allegedly inappropriate texting and calling between Harris and a student.

But a state review panel decided there wasn’t enough evidence to convene a hearing to suspend Harris’ license. Guilfoyle said documentation provided by the district “stated that nothing inappropriate occurred” and that statements from individuals involved backed that up.

District officials supposedly took personnel action against Harris at the time, Guilfoyle wrote, but she couldn’t say what that action was.

Guilfoyle said the state is now requesting additional information from the district and will investigate further.

State licensing records show Harris was first issued a teaching license in 2007 and has teacher, counselor and administrator licenses valid through 2022.

Harris served as Greenwood High’s co-principal during the 2013-2014 school year before becoming its sole principal for the next two years. Before that, she was the district’s director for federal programs and the principal of Greenwood Middle School.

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