State lawmakers are considering taking action to investigate the Charleston County School District's decisions regarding an employee accused of accessing child pornography on his school laptop.
This comes in response to a Live 5 Investigation into how CCSD handled an employee named Marvin Gethers. In 2014, IT specialists suspected they found child pornography on Gethers' school laptop and, 37 days later, reported in to law enforcement.
School and police files obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed the district did not terminate or place Gethers on long-term leave after that police report was filed, even though Gethers was listed as the suspect on the incident report in 2014.
Gethers continue to work at Dunston Elementary in North Charleston until he was arrested for the child pornography two years later.
The investigation also revealed that two children later claimed they were molested by Gethers while the school was waiting for the outcome of the police investigation. Gethers was re-arrested and charged with those crimes, too.
"It made me angry. It made me sick to my stomach. It made me aware of the fact that there is a major issue here, a major disconnect that the Charleston School District knew about this and didn’t take action immediately," S.C. Rep. Peter McCoy said after seeing our story.
"As Chairman as the Charleston delegation, we’re going to take a look at this," McCoy said. "There could be a scenario where we call some folks in and have them testify under oath in front of us. This is something we have to hit head-on and not something we take lightly."
His goal is to form a committee of state lawmakers to hold a hearing and issue legal subpoenas to anyone who has knowledge of how the district handled this case.
S.C. Rep. Marvin Pendarvis and S.C. Sen. Marlon Kimpson echoed McCoy's concerns.
Pendarvis sees the potential for improving state law. First, he said, to require districts to take swift and appropriate action against employees caught with illegal material. Second, he said, to explore how to expedite forensic analysis in cases where children's safety could be at risk.
The North Charleston Police Department waited 22 months for a forensic analysis on Gethers' computer to come back from the Charleston County Sheriff's Office; there was a long waiting list, said the detective's notes, including several homicides that took precedence.
Kimpson said he is willing to serve on a legislative committee about these issues if one is formed.
Gethers maintained his innocence after he was charged and was never convicted. He died last year from heart failure, according to the coroner.
CCSD said there is no one left in the district to answer questions about why Gethers was allowed back to the school while the criminal investigation was underway.
Current Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait was not the superintendent in 2014. Chief Strategy and Communications Officer Erica Taylor provided a statement Thursday:
"Charleston County School District affirms that under current leadership, our practice is that any employee who has accessed pornography would result in their immediate termination. Further, we have taken this matter extremely seriously; and although those district leaders involved in 2014-15 are no longer employed with CCSD, we welcome conversation and dialogue with members of the Charleston Legislative Delegation."
Live 5 is continuing to investigate which leaders were aware of the Gethers situation in 2014.
McCoy still has concerns about accountability in the district.
"I want to know who knew," he said. "I want to know inside that school district who had actual knowledge of that...I want to know their names and who they are. If there are people who work at the district now or at that time, come forward and talk to me."
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