Georgetown County schools comb crime rules

Georgetown County school officials discussed but did not act Tuesday night on a proposed districtwide policy outlining disciplinary procedures for students who are arrested and jailed.

The school board said they needed time to review and consider the policy, which includes allowing principals to prohibit students from participating in extracurricular activities such as sports, choir and student council if they are arrested off-campus.

Currently, each school principal creates his own disciplinary procedure. The proposed policy was developed to provide consistency and to serve as a deterrent in response to a rise in off-campus student arrests, said Superintendent Randy Dozier.

In the case of a student who is jailed under the proposed policy, the school's administrator could place a student on probation, prohibit participation in extracurricular activity, suspend or expel the student, or place the student in an alternative school. The school administrator also could opt not to take any action against the student.

The policy does not differentiate between students who are arrested for felonies or misdemeanors.

A parent whose daughter was sexually assaulted off-campus by a classmate from Waccamaw High School said the proposed policy does not go far enough. The young man charged in her daughter's incident pleaded guilty earlier this year to misdemeanor charges for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature in a sexually violent offense. He returned to classes at the school and rejoined the basketball team.

"If someone is arrested, they should be suspended or expelled until they have a trial," said the woman. The Sun News does not print the names of sexual assault victims. In order not to identify the victim, The Sun News will not use the name of the teen's parent.

"I'd like to see them do something," she said. "Now, there are too many levels of gray and the victim is the one suffering. He gets to walk across the stage at graduation."

Her daughter no longer attends the school because she does not want to face her attacker there, her mother said.

Her attorney, Daniel Hunnicutt, spoke to the school board during Tuesday's meeting.

"Playing in sports is a privilege," he said. "I don't believe someone who is convicted of a violent crimes against a fellow student, especially of crime of a sexual nature should be participating on a sports team. I think this is fairly straightforward. I think it should be fairly obvious that students who commit [criminal] acts against fellow students should not be given the honor of playing in school sports."

School board member Teresa Bennani said the policy presented to the school board Tuesday was a draft and a "working document" and there may be some criteria that needed to be added.

"I do think it is a privilege to be in a sport or club," she said. "I do think it needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis."

She said hopefully the policy can serve as an incentive for kids to stay out of trouble.

School Board Chairman Jim Dumm said he was alarmed by the high number of crimes committed by students off-campus recently. He said he did not recall the numbers. In the most recent quarterly report from the Georgetown County Sherriff's Office, Dumm said he noticed a spike in larcenies and assaults.

"It has got to be treated on a case by case basis," said Dumm of student discipline. "Like so many things, we have to put faith in leadership and expect them to do the right thing."

It was undetermined when the policy would come up for a vote.