The investigation intensified on Tuesday when Howard also appointed the governor's two investigators to be special prosecutors in office.
DA Says He Has Evidence Of CRCT Cheating
Howard said the state investigation into Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests has produced clear-cut evidence that student tests were altered.
"We're looking at everything -- every detail, every person, every matter involved with this cheating scandal," said Howard.
The appointment of former Attorney General Mike Bowers and former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson as special assistants to Howard clears the path toward likely criminal prosecution of Atlanta school teachers and administrators.
"It is now our duty to determine the extent of this wrongdoing and to decide in what cases criminal prosecution may be appropriate," said Howard.
"I am encouraging anyone with specific knowledge of these allegations of test cheating to come forward now," said Howard.
Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed Bowers and Wilson to conduct a separate investigation from the school district's blue ribbon panel.
The state investigation included dozens of Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agents who swarmed Atlanta schools in October, seizing evidence and investigating teachers, a story first reported by Channel 2's Richard Belcher.
Four months ago, the school system's blue ribbon panel released the results of their investigation without suggestion of criminal conduct or cheating.
On Tuesday, Bowers spelled out his game plan: "to get at the truth, to help remove teachers who have done wrong from the classroom and in certain cases, carry out criminal prosecutions."
"There's still a lot of work to be done, but with the help of Mr. Howard and the GBI, we will achieve the determination of the truth," said Wilson
When asked by Belcher if the team was prepared to cut deals with people in exchange for their testimony, Howard replied, "We want to get to the truth, and we'll just leave it at that," said Howard.
Howard also told Belcher the blue ribbon panel would also be part of the investigation.
J. Tom Morgan, a former DeKalb County district attorney who is serving as outside counsel to the Atlanta school system, released a statement in response to Howard's announcement.
"Atlanta Public Schools will cooperate fully and completely with the Fulton County District Attorney's office, just as the school system has done with the state investigation. Superintendent Dr. Beverly L. Hall has repeatedly demanded that every employee cooperate with investigators or face termination. If any employees violated criminal laws during the course of their employment with the Atlanta Public Schools, they should be prosecuted," the statement read.
Dr. Hall believes strongly that such prosecutions are in the interest of the community at large, and especially in the interest of school children who may have been harmed by these actions.If Atlanta Public Schools has reasonable evidence that someone has violated an ethical standard required of all our educators, the Superintendent will immediately move to terminate that individual's contract, without waiting for criminal prosecution," the statement concluded.