By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Ex-coach: Intimacy not a factor in job loss
Thomas Desbiens - photo by Courier file photo
What’s not allowed

Georgia Professional Standards Commission professional practice code of ethics:
Standard 2: Abuse of Students: An educator should always maintain a professional relationship with all students. Unethical conduct includes but is not limited to:
• Committing any act of child abuse, including physical and verbal abuse.
• Committing any act of cruelty to children or any act of child endangerment.
• Committing or soliciting any unlawful sexual act.
• Engaging in harassing behavior on the basis of race, gender, sex, national origin, religion or disability.
• Soliciting, encouraging, or consummating an inappropriate written, verbal or physical relationship with a student.
• Furnishing tobacco, alcohol, or illegal/unauthorized drugs to any student or allowing a student to consume alcohol, or illegal/unauthorized.
“I’ll admit I made some bad choices and used poor judgment,” former Liberty County High School social studies teacher and Panther football defensive coordinator Thomas Desbiens said. “But I want to set the record straight. I never had inappropriate physical, intimate or sexual contact with any student at the school.”
Roughly a week after tendering his resignation, Desbiens said in an interview with the Courier that words and not intimacy were the cause of his alleged violation of ethics, uncovered during an investigation in late January.
“There is no way I would do that,” he said. “I even told the administration I would take a polygraph test if they suspected that.”
Desbiens felt Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer’s quote in last Wednesday’s Courier, “those types of relationships with student,” might have left the impression that he was involved sexually with the female student.
Desbiens said the investigation did start because the student was in his class when she should have been elsewhere.
Administrators confirm Desbiens’ assertion.
“Our investigation concluded that he did not have sexual relations with this current student,” Scherer said in a phone interview Wednesday.
“The school administration felt that I violated my code of ethics because I received and replied to some text messages,” Desbiens said.
According to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission Professional Practice code of ethics the exchange of text messages with a student could be considered a violation of professional standards and ethics.
Neither Scherer nor Desbiens would comment on the content of the text messages, citing confidentiality of students and faculty.
Scherer said teachers should always conduct themselves in a professional manner in and out of the classroom.
Desbiens said he resigned because he wanted to put the matter behind him and not harm the student’s family nor his anymore.
He said the last few weeks have been hard. He said his wife, Michele, and their five kids have stood with him.
“My kids have really been strong through this whole thing,” he said. “I told them they were going to hear things and people were going to talk, but they know the truth and they’ve been there for me.”
He said his biggest regret is the harm he may have caused his family, friends, colleagues and former students.
He said he is going to miss coaching football the most.
“The coaches and players really mean a lot to me,” he said. “It’s going to be real hard not being on that sideline.”
Still uncertain what punishment the Professional Standards Commission will enforce, Desbiens said he is moving forward, starting a business, Advanced Aquatics Pool and Spas, LLC, with a friend.
“I truly learned a lesson from this experience,” Desbiens said. “I made some bad choices and it caught up with me.”
Law enforcement said from the start that Desbiens’ conduct had not been illegal.
Liberty County Chief Deputy Keith Moran said, “There is no criminal investigation or charges pending.”
Sign up for our e-newsletters