CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A 58-page lawsuit filed Wednesday morning in Charleston County states that former Charleston County School District employee Marvin Gethers sexually abused a third boy when the child was between 7 and 8 years old while attending Dunston Elementary School.
The allegations come after two other boys also say Gethers abused them, according to police records. The suit states that upon seeing the Live 5 News investigation into Gethers, the child’s mother asked her son whether Gethers had touched him inappropriately which he confirmed, the suit stated.
The child disclosed that Gethers took him into a counseling room at Dunston where Gethers slapped him in the face and punched him in the back, the suit stated. The child also told forensic investigators that Gethers sexually abused him in the room and that if he disclosed the abuse that Gethers would hurt him and no other teachers would believe him, according to the suit.
The boy also told forensic investigators that he reported concerns to law enforcement at the school, but an officer said, “I don’t believe you because Mr. Gethers is a good person.” The child then received a mental health evaluation at the Lowcountry Children’s Center in December and was interviewed by forensic investigators.
Charleston attorney Mark Peper, who is representing the family of the third alleged victim, held a news conference Wednesday outside the Charleston County School District headquarters. Peper said his firm was contacted in November by the boy’s family, who claimed he was sodomized, physically assaulted and sexually assaulted on numerous occasions by Gethers while Gethers was an employee of the school district.
The results of our investigation are atrocious and outstanding," Peper said. "The only statement to date ever issued by the school district regarding this matter has been an apology by now superintendent Miss Postlewait and it didn’t give the public any information.”
On Dec. 13, Dr. Gerrita Postlewait apologized for the district’s handling of the Gethers case. She said that while she was not the superintendent at the time, she is sorry and hopes to one day get to the bottom of the decision-making. Postlewait said an internal review the district ordered was not thorough because certain people refused to be interviewed for their investigation.
“It is next to impossible to determine why certain decisions were made due to the inability to question all the involved parties who were in place at the time,” Postlewait said in a full statement, citing the lack of cooperation of people who were unwilling to be interviewed and the fact that Gethers could not be interviewed because he is deceased.
“Let me say it very clear: This lawsuit is to remove that impossibility as referenced by Superintendent Postlewait that we will ever know what happened, why it happened and who allowed it to happen in the school district," Peper said at Wednesday’s news conference. "Those facts will be determined in a jury.”
Peper says he believes there are additional victims who have not yet come forward.
“We firmly believe and have reason to believe there are multiple victims out there,” he said. “Any time you investigate matters like this where you have a serial sex offender it’s very rare there are only a handful of victims says district hasn’t offered a comforting environment for victims to come forward. I hope there aren’t any others, but I feel certain there are.”
The lawsuit also names the Charleston County School District, the Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon and the city of North Charleston as defendants for their role in the investigation into Gethers.
It claims CCSD’s hiring and rehiring of Gethers allowed him to sexually assault the boy and allowed Gethers to use his position at Dunston to engage in inappropriate sexual conduct with the boy. The suit also says staff ignored Gethers' misconduct toward the child and failed to care about a safe environment for education. It also says that district leaders at the time including former CCSD Associate Superintendent Dr. James Winbush, former CCSD Director of Security Jeff Scott, former Deputy Director of Employee Relations Wilbert Suggs, and former Dunston Elementary Principal Janice Malone knew Gethers had downloaded and viewed child porn on his laptop and hid that information from other staff at Dunston.
The suit states that when Winbush was named principal at Baptist Hill High School in 2006, he became Gethers direct supervisor and the two became close friends and confidants. It then says he encouraged Gethers to re-apply as an employee at CCSD in 2010 when Winbush became an associate superintendent.
In references to the city of North Charleston police department, it says Officer Charles Benton didn’t properly investigate whether Gethers had downloaded and watched child porn on his CCSD-issued laptop while working as a student concern specialist at Dunston Elementary School and then failed to follow-up with the sheriff’s office after he closed the administrative portion of the investigation in June 2014. In turn, it insinuates that Benton knew or should have known that closing the investigation would allow Gethers to return to work.
The suit goes on to say that Sgt. Paul McManigal of the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office didn’t perform a request from Benton to run a forensic examination of Gathers' laptop by not telling him that the investigation was finished until December 2015 and then failed to deliver the forensic evaluation report until January 2016. The suit says that McManigal knew or should have known that Gethers was cleared to return to work until the forensic examination of the laptop was finished.
Within a week of Gethers' arrest for the computer-related charge, police learned of the first two children who said Gethers molested them in Dunston Elementary. Both alleged assaults happened in the school in 2015 in Gethers' office.
“This case is not about the lion but the individuals that let the little children be locked inside the lion’s cage," Peper said. "We look forward to our day in court and we look forward providing the public with information that CCSD has refused to provide to date.”
Gethers worked for Charleston County Schools from 2000 to 2007 and from 2010 to 2016. According to his personnel file, his jobs ranged over the years from being a teacher assistant, student concern specialist, after school media assistant, tutor, Saturday School teacher and parent advocate.
Amid the investigation into Gethers, Live 5 has also faced an uphill battle in getting responses for Freedom of Information Act requests from the district and attorneys say the district has violated state law by not responding to certain requests within the mandated amount of time.
“Charleston County School District is closed until January 4, 2018,” CCSD spokeswoman Erica Taylor said in a statement Wednesday. “CCSD has not been served with said lawsuit, and therefore there is no comment to make at this time.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office released a statement on the lawsuit:
The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office was advised earlier today of a civil complaint filed against the Sheriff regarding a case with former Charleston County School District employee Marvin Gethers. The Sheriff’s Office has just received the documents, but has not had time to fully examine the information. The agency is currently reviewing the documents to determine the appropriate course of action.
The North Charleston Police Department also released the following statement:
We’ve not yet been served and expect the matter to be handled by defense counsel once assigned.