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Our children are more important than any adults’ reputations

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CNN reported that 48 Ukranian schools have been attacked at the hands of Russian rule. The only innocence left in that war-ravaged corner of earth is quickly diminishing. 

Closer to home, however, where bombs and missiles are inconceivable, the enemy sometimes slithers within our safest of places, and not from without. 

According to a recent Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette article, former Beaufort County Bridges Prep teacher, Timothy Sheaffer, was charged with second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor after uploading a sexually explicit video of a minor to the internet. The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office added the ICAC forensic examinations of the electronic devices taken from Sheaffer’s home may lead to further charges. 

According to local accounts, rumors have circulated among students and parents at the school during the years of Sheaffer’s employment of questionable behavior between the teacher and students. If Sheaffer is convicted of the charge(s), his license will be permanently revoked, and he will be unable to teach in public schools in South Carolina. Disciplinary records will be uploaded to a national database, so it will follow him, no matter where he goes. 

Who at the school was responsible for investigating if any complaint(s) were pursued? If complaint(s) were made, was the board aware of them? If Timothy Sheaffer is found guilty, would the school be held liable in any way if they did not properly report complaints? If the school did not report properly, are there any other incidents that have not been reported properly? 

SC Code of Laws Sections 59-5-60 and 59-25-110 articulates State Board Policy for Reporting of Terminations of Certain School District Employees as follows: 

“A district superintendent, on behalf of the local board of education, shall report to the Chair of the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Education, the name and certificate number of any certified educator who is dismissed, resigns or is otherwise separated from employment with that district based on allegations of misconduct including, but not limited to, misconduct involving drugs, sexual misconduct, the commission of a crime, immorality, moral turpitude, or dishonesty, that is reasonably believed by the district superintendent to constitute grounds for revocation or suspension of the certificate issued to the educator by the State Board …” 

Repercussions for not reporting include accreditation probation and suspension and/or revocation of certification. Education professionals are considered mandatory reporters. 

The investigation is ongoing. 

Upon hearing news of the latest arrest, an ex-Bridges Prep mother took to Facebook to share her observations of Sheaffer from years earlier. Her son had tried to report what he’d witnessed of Sheaffer’s interactions with other students to school administrators. School leadership at that time suspended the student for communicating his concerns. 

What life lessons did these school officials teach this young man? Will he speak out in the future against wrong doings if he understands the potential response may be his own punishment and disgrace? 

When all is said and done, our children’s safety is of paramount importance, not the reputation of any school. Any attempts to sweep under the rug grave misdoings to preserve the reputations of adults and institutions comes at the peril of our young. 

JoAnn Orischak served as the District 11 Representative to the Beaufort County Board of Education from 2012-2020. She resides on Hilton Head Island and can be reached at JoAnnOrischak. TheIslandNews@gmail.com. 

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