CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Attorneys representing the third alleged victim of a Charleston County School District employee say they intend to depose people who were in positions of authority at the district to get answers about how the alleged abuse could have happened.
Attorneys David Aylor and Mark Peper spoke to Charleston interviewer Quintin Washington on his “Quintin’s Close-Ups” program.
The attorneys represent a victim who says he was between 7 and 8 years old when Marvin Gethers physically and sexually abused him while Gethers worked at Dunston Elementary School.
The Charleston County School District notified the North Charleston Police Department on March 5, 2014, that a district-issued laptop might contain child pornography. Gethers is listed as the suspect on that incident report. But the investigation uncovered that five days after Gethers was placed on administrative leave, he was allowed to return to work.
Peper said the district subsequently issued him multiple computers despite finding child porn on one of them.
“When [Gethers] was placed on administrative leave for five days, you know, a week, and then knowing that child porn was on the computer and knowing North Charleston Police Department had an opened an investigation and allowed [him] to go back to school, he was given another CCSD-issued laptop,” Peper said. “When he was finally arrested two years later, he not only had a desktop computer CCSD issued to him in his office, but they found another laptop that had been issued to him that he stored away in the library. Somebody’s going to have to explain that to me.”
In October 2014, Gethers was offered a job at Dunston Elementary. Between August and December of 2015, affidavits filed alleged Gethers molested two students and took nude photos of another in the school’s bathroom.
Peper said the public deserves answers about what happened and why Gethers was allowed to return to work amid the investigation into porn.
“The list of questions we have is too long to even start on today,” Peper told Washington in the interview. “If everybody will just sit in the chair and tell the truth, we can find out what happened rather quickly. The problem is that we’re going to have to jump through some hoops and over some hurdles.”
Aylor said the scariest part is that while there are current allegations involving three students, there may be more victims.
“I think more is going to come to light as time goes on,” he said.
Aylor said Gethers operated a “Gentlemen’s Club” at the school that may have provided him the opportunity and contact with victims.
“It’s something we’ve all seen in similar types of schools and church groups and things like that where you’re working with young men, obviously different groups work with young ladies, teaching some basic manners and sort of life skills,” Aylor said. “And it appears to us tht it was that club amongst other exposure to the students that really gave him the one-on-one time that put him in the position to be able to abuse these children.”
The lawsuit was filed after two other boys also claimed Gethers abused them, according to police records.
The suit states that upon seeing the Live 5 News investigation into Gethers, the third child’s mother asked her son whether Gethers had touched him inappropriately which he confirmed, the suit stated.
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 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.
The family filed a lawsuit against the district in December. The 58-page suit also names Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon and the city of North Charleston. The suit claims that a North Charleston officer did not properly investigate whether Gethers had downloaded and watched child porn on his CCSD-issued laptop. It also alleges the officer failed to follow-up with the sheriff’s office after he closed the administrative portion of the investigation in June 2014. The suit claims that officer either knew or should have known that closing the investigation would allow Gethers to treturn to work.
The suit also alleges that a Charleston County Sheriff’s Office investigator did not perform a request from North Charleston Police to run a forensic investigation of Gethers' laptop by 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 investigator either knew or should have known that Gethers was cleared to return to work until the forensic examination of the laptop was finished.
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.
Despite the investigation into child porn on his work computer, he was also promoted and named employee of the year before he died in 2017. The district has since hired a law firm to handle the investigation while state lawmakers demand answers.
Gethers, who died in 2017, maintained his innocence.
Current CCSD Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait issued an apology for the district’s handling of the situation. Postlewait ordered an internal review ordered was not thorough because decision makers who may have been aware of the Gethers case at the time and who are no longer with the school district were not willing to participate in the district’s investigation.
“Our lawsuit is going to lead to real results,” Aylor said.
Peper told Washington people involved will answer their questions and they will do so “sooner than you would expect.”
“We are not interested in a long litigation process, we have our ducks in a row and we’re going to figure this out quick,” Peper said.
“One thing that we don’t understand is where the school district is in being concerned about not just what happened, but how they can avoid from ever happening again, because that they can’t put on the blame of the former administration,” Aylor said. “That is something that should be dealt with today.”