Alvin Edwards defends support of convicted teacher

Alvin Edwards defends support of convicted teacher

On September 27, after former Charlottesville High School chorus teacher Jonathan Spivey was sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexual relationships with students, an area message board lit up with discussion. Why was the sentence so short, some wondered. When he pleaded guilty in June, Spivey faced up to 20 years for the sexual misconduct. As reported in last week’s C-VILLE, though, his eventual sentence is actually higher than sentencing guidelines, which called for one day to three months.

Reverend Alvin Edwards defends his appearance at the sentencing for Jonathan Spivey, the former Charlottesville High chorus teacher who pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual misconduct with students. Spivey was also the organist at Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church, where Edwards is pastor.
Previous C-VILLE coverage:

Sex offending Spivey to serve 21 months
Sentence high for case involving sex crimes against children

Choir director admits to sex charges
Prosecutors detail a series of affairs with students

Hot cases 3.0
Keep these continuing court cases in mind in 2007

Spivey out on $50,000 bond
Former teacher forbidden from unsupervised contact with his own and other children

Choir Director charged with sex crimes
CHS conductor indicted on seven counts of abuse

Through the course of that day, online perusers at posed a more difficult problem: Why was city School Board Chairman Alvin Edwards in the courtroom during sentencing, apparently in support of Spivey?

While Spivey was CHS choir director for 15 years, he was also for much of that time an ordained pastor and music director at Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church where Edwards is pastor. In addition, not only is Edwards the school board chair, he is also up for election on November 6 (though Edwards is already on the board, this is his first bid for election—the process was changed by a ballot initiative in 2005 from appointment to election). So the pastor was faced with a dilemma. Should he show support for a key member of his church staff or shun the schoolteacher who confessed to multiple counts of sexual misconduct with a student? Edwards chose the former.

“I’m his pastor,” he said when reached by phone, choosing to respond with that answer to numerous queries, including whether he fears his support could affect his chances for re-election. He also noted that he has recused himself from any school board discussion of Spivey. So while it may have been imprudent politically, Edwards’ terse response indicates that he felt he owed a spiritual duty to his former peer, one that outweighed any impression his presence may have given pertaining to his position on the school board.

More than a week after Spivey’s sentence, online banter has continued over Edward’s courtroom presence, prompting his daughter, Brianna, to post a lengthy message on October 5 in defense of her father. “I would like to say I am DISGUSTED,” she wrote, and proceeded to offer a number of challenges. “Spivey is a friend, the minister of music at his church, and member of his congregation,” she explained. “Should he have abandoned him?” That is one of the questions, of course, with her final sentence framing the other main issue. “If you feel there should be stipulations for all members of the school board and their affiliations with the community, take that up with the school board and get off my dad’s back.”

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