Ex-school bookkeeper: Stealing students' money was 'addicting'

School bookkeeper accused of stealing from students' accounts

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — A DeKalb County bookkeeper was fired after she admitted to stealing about $15,000 of deposits from Lithonia High School.

Stephine Barkley is now out on bond from the DeKalb County Jail after being arrested for theft by taking.

“I think that it is very sad and awful that a bookkeeper would be stealing from the kids,” said Donice Edwards, a parent at the school.

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“It is like a shock to come here and realize we have no money. It’s disappointing that we cannot do a lot of the things we are supposed to do because she stole our money,” said student Solape Baballola.

According to a signed affidavit, Barkely admitted to taking about $15,000. She said she wasn’t sure of the exact amount.

A school audit found that Barkley likely stole around $46,000, a district spokesman said.

“I began to take deposits to pay my rent and to pay day care bills for my children. It was almost like an addiction to take money from the deposits,” Barkley wrote in the affidavit.

Barkley said she would repay the missing funds, and was also sorry for any harm if may have caused anyone at the school district.

Channel 2 Action News was unable to reach Barkley.

Some parents say there should be more checks and balances over the money.

“I think that there maybe should be more than one person overseeing it, maybe multiple people,” said parent Donice Edwards.

In a statement from DeKalb County Schools, a spokesman said:

"The theft of student activity funds by a former bookkeeper at Lithonia High School was discovered by an audit conducted by the District's audit and compliance unit. The employee was immediately terminated and arrested by the DeKalb Police Department.  Our investigative files have been turned over to the DeKalb District Attorney for prosecution.
"We have documented that approximately $46,000 in student activity school funds have not been accounted for.  The internal investigation will continue to examine school and financial records until all missing funds are identified.
"The District will take whatever steps necessary to ensure that Lithonia High School students participating in extra-curricular and co-curricular activities will not be negatively impacted.
"Superintendent Michael Thurmond has directed the District's audit and compliance unit to undertake financial reviews of all schools with significant cash flows.  Mandatory district wide training will be provided for all school bookkeepers. In addition, all administrative processes and procedures will be reviewed to ensure that this type of incident will not re-occur."