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Jim Barrett

Walker County Sheriff's Office investigators searched the classroom and car of the president of the local teachers' union last week.

Sheriff Steve Wilson said the department received a tip Wednesday evening that required it to investigate Jim Barrett, who teaches at Saddle Ridge Middle School in Rock Spring, Georgia. A Walker County magistrate issued a search warrant to search Barrett's property on campus Friday morning.

The same day, Wilson said, Fort Oglethorpe Police Department investigators also searched Barrett's home. Neither department has filed charges, and the sheriff declined to say what specifically investigators were looking for last week.

"I can't go into that at this point," Wilson said. "I don't think it would be appropriate to discuss the content of this investigation. It's still kind of ongoing and I certainly don't want to jeopardize it. It may turn out to be nothing."

Barrett did not immediately return a call or email seeking comment Wednesday, and his attorney did not respond to an email. Superintendent Damon Raines did not return a message asking what Barrett's status is with the district.

Wilson said investigators informed the school's principal, as well as central office staff and members of the school board, before conducting the search Friday. Wilson's brother, Dale Wilson, is a member of the board. He said Barrett was at the school at the time of the search, though they tried to conduct it when no students were in the classroom.

"We made sure that no students were exposed," Wilson said. "At least that was our goal: That it would be as streamlined as possible, that no students were interrupted or exposed. To my knowledge, it went that way."

Barrett, a social studies teacher, has been a frequent critic of of the Walker County school district and Raines in particular. He spoke out against the district's grading system, then sued the board over its public commenting policy in March 2015. That set off years of legal battles, with Barrett winning in U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. (Federal judges ruled the policy was unconstitutional because it mandated a requested speaker first meet with Raines in private, though the policy did not say when that meeting had to take place.)

The board settled with Barrett in June, agreeing to pay his attorneys $330,000 in legal fees. When the board finally adopted a new policy last week, Barrett criticized the new rules as well. The policy restricts reasons why an employee of the district can speak to the board at public meetings.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

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