The state on Thursday suspended the educator license of former Heidelberg Elementary School principal Lowanda Tyler-Jones for directing her staff to cheat on standardized tests.

According to the Mississippi Department of Education, Tyler-Jones and her attorney attempted to “unilaterally withdraw from participating and failing to appear without the Licensure Commission’s authority” at the hearing Thursday.

The decision marks the end of a nearly three-year investigation into testing irregularities at the school. The irregularities were first highlighted by a Clarion-Ledger report in 2014. The Mississippi Department of Education then conducted its own investigation.

Three Clarksdale teachers were also charged with cheating. One surrendered her license while the Commission on Teacher and Administrator Education, Certification and Licensure and Development suspended the license of another teacher. A third teacher’s license expired while under investigation, and the teacher has not attempted to renew it.

“Because of Ms. Tyler-Jones’ actions, children in Clarksdale were deprived of the educational services they needed, and in some cases, students fell far below grade level without any intervention,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “The Commission’s decision to bar this former educator from applying for any type of educator license for 20 years speaks volumes about the seriousness of her offense and the consequences the Commission determined.”

Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.