Sunday, February 14, 2010

Delmer & Amanda Duboise Do...Their Students

This account of father/daughter sexual predators originally appeared in Shoalanda Speaks on December 26, 2009, and February 12-13, 2010.

Amanda Duboise Watkins' Facebook address is girlinterrupted1. The 38 year-old Watkins was certainly interrupted when she was found having sex with a 15 year-old male in late December 2009. Watkins is, or perhaps more correctly was, a teacher at Sheffield Junior High School; her male companion had been her student the previous year. What would possess an attractive married woman with multiple degrees, not to mention a young daughter, to risk everything for a few moments of sexual passion with someone who's hardly more than a child? While many apparently see humor in this, it is no different than an older man taking advantage of a younger female student. These relationships are taboo for a reason, but are seemingly becoming more and more commonplace. Could anyone have foreseen this kind of deviant behavior from Watkins? Perhaps one needs to look no further than her father, a former educator convicted of solicitation of a student.

Amanda Duboise is a native of Phil Campbell in Franklin County. After graduation from high school, she attended Northwest Shoals Community College before advancing to the University of North Alabama where she met her husband Carter Watkins, a Florence native who graduated from Hibbett Middle and Coffee High Schools. Carter Watkins also majored in journalism and is currently employed as WHNT's Chief Photographer for the Shoals Bureau. Together, Carter and Amanda resided in Forest Hills with their daughter Grace Anne and dog Toto.

Perhaps their marriage looked idyllic only from the outside. Sheffield Superintendent Richard Gardner reported that he had spoken with Watkins over another incident two years ago. Gardner did not specify the exact nature of the problem, but did state that it was not sexual in nature. Now Amanda Duboise Watkins has been released from the Muscle Shoals Jail on $15,000.00 bond, while also having been placed on paid administrative leave at Sheffield Junior High.

Social networking site photos of Watkins show her wearing a cross; she lists her favorite Bible verse as "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength;" two of her Facebook organizations are I Love Jesus and I'm Proud to be a Christian. Here, in her own words, is the vision Amanda Duboise Watkins had of herself:

Before entering the world of education, I worked as a reporter and freelance writer. My original degree from the University of North Alabama was in journalism. I have always loved reading and writing. I worked as a freelance reporter for the Times Daily, a staff writer for the Franklin County Times and wrote various freelance articles for a few magazines. I even worked at WVNA Radio in Tuscumbia. I decided to go back to obtain my masters after the birth of my daughter. It is a decision that changed my life. I absolutely love what I do. Today's young people are our future. We need to do all we can to make a positive impact on their lives and their educational experience. Every student has his/her own unique talents and abilities. Teaching allows me to help students make those discoveries or further develop ones they have already uncovered for themselves. Helen Keller once said, "Its a terrible thing to see and have no vision."

Now, unless offered a plea, Watkins will be branded a sex offender and never teach school again. She also may be required to serve time in prison. Her family deserved more, and certainly the young man she seduced deserved and expected more, as did his family. Teacher sex is a crime--a crime no less serious because the offender may manage to plead to a lesser offense. If our children aren't safe at school, how can we expect them to be safe anywhere?

Yes, Amanda Watkins has been accused of having sex with a 15 year-old former student. Actually, from early accounts of the arrest, the 38 year-old Mrs. Watkins was literally caught with her knickers down. Now the Sheffield Board of Education is refusing to name the infamous teacher in public reports, and a reporter with the Associated Press in Montgomery is asking why.

Mrs. Watkins' father has been active in North Alabama and State politics since his daughter's birth. In 1972, Delmer Duboise, then a resident of Phil Campbell, ran for delegate to the Democratic National Convention. By 1975, Duboise had been elected to the Franklin County Board of Education. As a member of the Board, Duboise prided himself on his attempts to halt the cash-strapped Board from excess spending. In fact, Duboise was so vocal in his criticism of the Superintendent, few doubted his next move would be an attempt to unseat then Superintendent Jimmy Clements.

By 1977, Duboise had been appointed Franklin County Uni-Serv Director of the Alabama Education Association , becoming friends with Paul Hubbert. In September 1978, Duboise abruptly resigned as Chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Party; the next month saw him ensconced as the administrative assistant to Jim Folsom Jr., then head of the Public Service Commission.

In 1980, Delmer Duboise saw his first political setback when opponents of Folsom presented evidence that the administrative assistant was using a PSC vehicle to travel from Montgomery to his home in Russellville. Duboise's political aspirations hit an even greater snag in 1982 when six black staff members of the PSC accused him of "racially discriminatory action."

By 1984, Duboise was back home in Russellville and seeking to become the first director of the Russellville Industrial Development Board. After not making the final cut, Duboise decided to return to the realm of education. At that time, Northwest Community College, then a separate entity from its sister school in the Shoals, was in need of a Public Relations Director. Sources say Duboise used his influence with Paul Hubbert to secure the position. For the next few years, Delmer Duboise's star was again on the rise.

Delmer's daughter Amanda Ladel Duboise Watkins is no longer an employee of the Sheffield School System if we are to believe local news reports. Yet, the Sheffield Board of Education refuses to verify that fact, referring all inquiries to their attorney. What does their legal representative say? He has yet to return calls to the Associated Press in Montgomery.

Rest assured that Mrs. Watkins is still a member of the Alabama Education Association, a teachers' union headed by Paul Hubbert, a one-time friend and associate of Watkins' father Delmer Duboise. The elder Duboise served as both instructor and Public Relations Director for Northwest Community College for approximately ten years, leaving the small two-year institution in 1996.

According to newspaper accounts from that era, Duboise, then 47, was arrested on May 27, 1995, for criminal solicitation. According to Franklin County authorities, Duboise offered a 20 year-old male student the munificent sum of $25.00 to engage in a sex act. (Feel free to inject any jokes about the Bill and Chelsea Clinton of Northwest Alabama.) In case you think the amount $25.00 was a typo, rest assured it is not. That amount would equal approximately $34.31 in 2010.

Duboise, dubbed by wags as "Delmer Dubious," announced that he had been set up by his political enemies and demanded a trial sans jury. Franklin County was adamant that Duboise should be judged by a jury of his peers--thus producing an extended legal battle in which the AEA provided Duboise assistance. While awaiting trial, Delmer Duboise was assigned to the Institutional Research Department at Northwest Community College.

After a legal battle that finally terminated in the Alabama Supreme Court the next March, Duboise was allowed to be tried without a jury. The Franklin county educator was eventually offered probation for the misdemeanor offense and quietly left academic life. For the past several years, Duboise has been mentioned in various news outlets as a "minister."

Have Delmer Duboise's connections to Paul Hubbert and Jim Folsom Jr. influenced the stance of the Sheffield Board of Education? Their refusal to discuss the incident with the press has not made the sex charges against Amanda Duboise Watkins go away; their refusal has made the Montgomery AP journalist just that more determined to report on the situation.

Amanda Duboise Watkins' first appearance in Colbert County District Court is scheduled for May 2010.