EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story attributed the details about the investigation to a school resource officer. The statement, which was included in the personnel file and references the SRO, was instead written by the school principal. Also, BCSD says a conference, rather than a hearing, took place on the teacher’s administrative leave.
BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Multiple Berkeley County School District documents obtained by Live 5 News show a Berkeley County teacher was found to have multiple bottles of alcohol in her classroom closet and later resigned her position.
The issues with Hanahan Middle School art teacher Catherine Sullivan began on Oct. 30, 2018, according to her personnel file.
A memorandum from Hanahan Middle School Principal Robin Rogers to Sullivan addressed an incident which took place that day. Sullivan’s 8th grade students reported that the lights were off and the door was locked when they tried to enter her classroom for a class around 12:40 p.m. When administrators went to find Sullivan, they found her “out of sorts” in a storage closet, the memorandum signed by Sullivan stated.
Rogers stated that Sullivan looked confused, didn’t know the exact time, and then asked Sullivan where her class was. Sullivan then stated, “In the closet” repeatedly and Rogers then asked her to call someone to pick her up from the school.
An email from Rogers to Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Dr. Karen Whitley the next day stated that Rogers had also looked in the window of Sullivan’s car and saw a paper bag with two empty six-pack cartons of wine coolers and one bottle had a little wine left in it. Rogers wrote to Whitley that she had no proof Sullivan was drinking at school but thought she smelled some kind of grape alcohol on Sullivan’s breath.
A written statement from an attendance clerk detailed another incident on Nov. 12. The clerk wrote that she went into Sullivan’s classroom to help Sullivan with “grades.” The clerk wrote that Sullivan smelled like alcohol and was acting strangely and couldn’t finish her “grades” which she had been working on for more than four hours. The incident resulted in Sullivan being placed on administrative leave.
A document from a conference concerning her administrative leave stated Sullivan had admitted to having wine bottles in her bookbag which were left over from a weekend oyster roast and Sullivan was allowed to return to work on Nov. 20 after being placed on leave eight days earlier.
A statement stated that around 2:30 p.m. that day, two students reported to the assistant principal that Sullivan kept going into the closet and drinking something and her eyes were red. The students also went into the closet and took a photo of a wine bottle. The principal went into the classroom to search the closet and reported finding three wine bottles including two that were half full. The document states that when asked when she last consumed wine, Sullivan said 7:30 a.m. that morning.
Sullivan then took an Uber home after school officials felt she was under the influence and they would not allow her to drive home.
Three days later, records show Sullivan resigned her position as a teacher at the school.
A letter addressed to Sullivan on Dec. 13 stated that a letter would be sent to the state board of education informing them of her resignation citing allegations of misconduct. In 2017, Sullivan was named teacher of the year at Hanahan Middle and was considered for the district-wide teacher of the year award.
According to the state board website, Sullivan still has her teaching certificate.