Internal CCSD report details Gethers case, loan by district superior

VIDEO: Internal confidential CCSD report details Gethers case, loan by district superior

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A confidential report on a Charleston County School District employee accused of accessing child pornography on a district laptop reveals that employee owed money to a key decision maker at the district.

Marvin Gethers (Source: Al Cannon Detention Center)
Marvin Gethers (Source: Al Cannon Detention Center)

Marvin Gethers was fired in 2016 from his job with the CCSD two years after a district IT employee found that he had visited websites with pornographic content with his district-issued laptop, the report states.

The report, dated Nov. 12, was obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request that was initially denied, but since approved for release by current district superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait. The report gives a timeline of events based on interviews and depositions with decision makers who were willing to be part of the attorney’s investigation into the case. The Charleston County School District hired attorney Wilbur Johnson to prepare the report as part of the investigation into the district’s handling of the case.

“Those involved with with knowledge of the events and with decision making authority, managed the situation differently than a similar situation would currently be handled,” Johnson wrote. “Currently, any employee found to have accessed any pornography on a district device will be terminated – immediately.”

The report stresses there was no evidence that the Charleston County School Board or its superintendent at the time, Dr. Nancy McGinley, were notified about the Gethers case.

“The completeness of the review was affected, somewhat, by the inaccessibility of certain individuals, employed with the Charleston County School District during the [time in which] this matter was addressed, but who could not or chose not to be interviewed,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson was hired by the district to investigate the Gethers matter by the school district as questions came to light about the district’s handling of the case and why Gethers was promoted after alleged child porn was found on his district laptop but before the investigation was concluded.

Pornography found on district-issued laptop in Jan. 2014

Gethers worked as a student concerns specialist in January 2014 when he reported his district-issued laptop was not working properly. An IT employee found the computer’s browser history included sites with pornographic content, the report states.

Gethers was an employee at Dunston Elementary School when a CCSD IT employee reported finding evidence that porn had been viewed on Gethers' district-issued laptop. (Source: Live 5)
Gethers was an employee at Dunston Elementary School when a CCSD IT employee reported finding evidence that porn had been viewed on Gethers' district-issued laptop. (Source: Live 5)

Dunston’s principal, Janice Malone, spoke with Gethers, who admitted he viewed “adult” pornography on the laptop, advancing reasons including the break-up of his marriage, the report states.

Malone told Johnson that she informed Gethers said she needed to contact James Winbush, who was the associate superintendent with jurisdiction over Dunston. Winbush, in turn, told Malone he would need to speak with John Emerson, who was CCSD’s general counsel.

The report cites an email from Jan. 31, 2014, in which Emerson instructed Malone to have Gethers write a written statement and a second email from the same day in which a member of the district’s Employee Relations Office instructed Malone to tell Gethers he was placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation.

Meanwhile, the district communicated with the North Charleston Police Department about the pornography discovered in the computer’s browser history. On Feb. 16, 2014, an email from North Charleston Police mentions a website that apparently hosts child pornography. In March, an North Charleston Police detective instructed a district IT employee to bring the computer to police for a forensic examination that would take two years to complete.

Neither McGinley nor Winbush agreed to be interviewed by Johnson for the report he filed. Neither has responded to requests for comment.

Gethers returns to work before police forensic investigation of laptop complete

The report states Gethers returned to work sometime between March and May, Gethers was permitted to return to work at Dunston Elementary, but there was no written documentation showing the decision to terminate his administrative leave.

On May 15, 2016, the report cites an email sent from the assistant director of the CCSD Employee Relations Office, Wilbert Suggs, in which Suggs tells Winbush that North Charleston Police, while investigating a different matter, “noticed that Gethers was on the job at Dunston.” Suggs asks Winbush whether Malone had authorized Gethers to return to work.

Winbush told Suggs that Gethers had been “returned to work and reprimanded,” the report states. The report found no documentation on the decision to reprimand Gethers and return him to work.

Winbush testified he returned Gethers to work because Malone “thought Gethers had done a ‘fantastic’ job at the school and ‘she would rather him stay there,’” the report states.

Malone denied she had a role in returning Gethers to work and denied making those statements, the report states.

Winbush also testified in a deposition for an unknown case that he discussed Gethers’ return to work with Suggs and at one point told Suggs Winbush had three other schools where “a guy” had viewed pornography, the report states. Suggs said the matter with Gethers should be handled “in a manner consistent” with the manner in which the other three incidents had been handled, Winbush said.

Suggs denied making such a statement, the report states.

“CCSD has no knowledge or documentation of these ‘other incidents,’ in which others were alleged to have viewed pornography,” the report states.

Suggs told Johnson he and Winbush discussed potential consequences for Gethers’ conduct, but said Winbush was “not inclined to impose a ‘harsh’ penalty, adding that Winbush would have had the authority to make decisions without involving or notifying the CCSD superintendent.

“There is no indication that the superintendent at the time was made aware of the Gethers matter,” the report states.

Emails with Gethers reference ‘vow to repay’

The report states Winbush emailed Gethers on May 21, 2014, telling Gethers that the district’s Employee Relations Office and Emerson had made inquiries about Gethers’ status. Winbush said he had been asked whether he wanted to terminate Gethers.

Winbush said he handled “it” because he knew Malone valued Gethers’ services and said he trusted Gethers’ boss, the report states.

But Winbush subsequently emailed Gethers claiming Gethers had let him down, the report states.

“What happened to our trust?” Winbush allegedly asked in the email, adding that Gethers had not “said a word at all,” the report states.

On May 22, 2014, Gethers responded and apologized to Winbush. Gethers said his “vow to pay” Winbush “still holds true” and promised to resolve the matter, the report states.

Then on July 7, 2014, Gethers emailed Winbush to say “things are looking up” and that he “hasn’t forgotten,” the report states. Gethers also stated his divorce would soon be final and that he will “be a free brother,” Johnson wrote.

Gethers offered to meet with Winbush, and Winbush replied, suggesting a meeting at the “front gate of the Air Force base or at one of the area elementary schools,” the report states. The report does not explain the reason for such a meeting.

“In his deposition testimony, Winbush acknowledges that he loaned money to Gethers,” the report states.

The document does not reveal how much money Winbush loaned him or the date on which the loan occurred.

But Gethers’ personnel file states that he was offered a new position at Dunston Elementary, as a parent advocate, on Oct. 24, 2014.

District fires Gethers after 2016 arrest

The North Charleston Police Department completed its forensic investigation of Gethers’ district-issued laptop in January 2016, concluding the computer had been used to access child pornography. Gethers was arrested on Jan. 20, 2016. Malone told investigators Gethers notified her of the arrest.

On Jan. 22, 2016, two days after his arrest, an associate superintendent sent Gethers a letter of termination. Gethers filed an appeal of that decision.

The report states that Malone told district officials she was unaware of any indication that Gethers was viewing child pornography prior to his arrest and asked why she had not been made aware of the accusation.

The district organized a team of counselors to visit Dunston Elementary and meet with second and third-grade members of the “Gentlemen’s Club” Gethers created, the report states. The team also met with Malone and other staff members and Employee Assistance Program brochures were placed in faculty mailboxes.

The district’s director of guidance and counseling also led a meeting with parents to address questions and child abuse experts were also there to make presentations, the report states.

Those child abuse experts also spoke with third grade members of Gethers’ “Gentlemen’s Club” to assess their general emotional status and to explain how the students could disclose any inappropriate touching, how to discuss any touching with their parents and who at the school they should tell, the report states.

On Feb. 4, 2016, Gethers was arrested a second time and charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct of a minor and first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. After his second arrest, Gethers withdrew the appeal of his termination.

On Feb. 9, 2016, Johnson said a full “District Crisis Team” arrived at the school for the purpose of “providing assistance to students and staff.” The following day, Malone sent a letter to the “Dunston Family” to note the arrest of a Dunston staff member and the importance of informing the Dunston family of the latest developments, the report states.

Gethers died on July 13, 2017, before his trial could begin, but he maintained his innocence.

“Those involved with with knowledge of the events and with decision making authority, managed the situation differently than a similar situation would currently be handled,” Johnson wrote. “Currently, any employee found to have accessed any pornography on a district device will be terminated – immediately.”

The district’s most recently updated policy includes an Internet Safety Policy that lists actions that are prohibited, including “accessing visual depictions that may be obscene, pornographic or harmful to minors,” the report states.

“There is no evidence then, or now that a student would have been exposed to any health related conditions,” the report concludes.

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