By Beverly Gadson-Birch
The Charleston County School Board held its regularly scheduled Board meeting September 24. Present were parents and community members demanding answers to how and why a student advocate employee, later promoted to parent advocate with the district, was allowed to remain at the school after child pornography was found on his computer. Former employee, Marvin Gethers of Dunston Elementary School, had a state-issued computer that was found to contain thousands of sexually explicit pictures of children and adults engaging in sex acts. The question that remains unexplained by the district is why Gethers was not suspended with or without pay while the investigation was ongoing. What kind of investigation takes 22 months involving elementary school children and particularly an incident where the children may have been exposed to a possible sexual predator and a sick one at that? Shortly after Gethers was arrested for the incident, he died. And, the parent/guardian of one of the students was recently paid $300,000 by the district. This whole ordeal smacks of a cover-up. The question is who knew what and when and failed to act appropriately and swiftly to protect the students at Dunston.
I am appealing to every parent who had a child at Dunston Elementary School between the years of 2010-2016 (Gethers’ latter years of employment with CCSD) to flood the Charleston County School District Office demanding answers. Parents, this is no time to hide in the shadows; come forward and demand that your child receive testing and counseling. Do not wait for the district to act fairly and responsibly in this matter. They haven’t done so in the past and I certainly would not count on them doing so in the future.
The Superintendent has authorized an independent investigation into the matter. As a parent, I would not wait another minute to ensure that my child was not a victim while attending Dunston. If it took police almost two years to conduct an investigation into pornography on an employee’s computer without the Superintendent or Board demanding a swift investigation and findings, I would not hold my breath waiting for a “swift” outside investigation. Who knows how long this investigation will take and the longer it takes, more students could be found to have been abused. We don’t know!! The alleged perpetrator is deceased. That’s why it’s important for parents to contact the Superintendent’s Office immediately. The Board is sworn to educate and protect students. In the case of Dunston’s students, they have failed miserably at both.
This writer was among concerned parents and community activists who attended the school board meeting trying to make sense out of the nonsense. Below is my presentation before the Board:
“Good evening, I am sure you were expecting me so I did not want to disappoint you like you have disappointed the students and staff at Dunston Elementary School and this community. The case of pornography on the computer and sexual abuse of one or more students at Dunston Elementary School is not just a case of who knew what and when, but who knew what and when and failed to act. So, for present sitting Board members, if you sat on this Board and knew what I and the public now know regarding the severity of the Dunston case, please do our children and this community justice and step down.
“I am asking you to do the right thing and step down because apparently your ambition for higher office is greater than your love for the students you were sworn to protect and educate. The children at Dunston are not pawns or stepping stones. They deserve to be treated in the same manner as any other students in this district. I am willing to bet this situation as it played out would not have happened in Mt. Pleasant. That’s right!! You heard me correctly. It would not have taken the police nor the school district 22 months to deal with this incident.
“I have had many sleepless nights since this case unfolded in the media. I will not accept finger pointing of who, what and why this unconscionable incident took place. I just want answers. When the information regarding the pornography found on the employee’s computer came to light, I am hearing the police investigation took almost two years. I am sure porn on any employee’s computer is sufficient grounds to have an employee suspended or terminated, particularly when it comes to the employee working with children. This could have been done with or without pay, that’s an administrative decision but to allow the employee to remain around minor children during the investigation is not only ludicrous but offensive.
“While the “alleged investigation” was taking place, the employee was given a raise and remained employed with the district. Are you kidding me?? Matter of fact, the employee received the distinctive honor of “Classified Employee of the Year”. If this wasn’t such a serious matter, it would be a laughable one. And it may have been during that almost two years’ window that the employee remained employed other sexual abuses occurred. Unbelievable!! So, who knew what and when? That’s what I want to know; and, I am sure the public wants to know too. And, If the facts and evidence corroborate the allegations, some heads in high places need to fly and the victims made whole again. If the district did in fact pay $300,000 to a victim, and there is evidence to substantiate that, there could be more pay-outs moving forward. The district could be facing millions more in legal fees and victims’ compensations. And, who pays for the Board’s negligence and/or failure to act swiftly? Taxpayers!!! And, if we find out more students were abused at Dunston, who pays for their medical care and counseling?
“I have seen many missteps in the past by this Board but this is the worst of the worst kind of injustice that could ever happen to a student or students; and, for the Superintendent and Board to delay justice is intolerable and darn right indefensible.”