After a primary school teacher from Hilton Head was arrested on Thursday for sexually assaulting a student a few months ago, the school district officials and the sheriff's office are holding them back. decision to keep the investigation secret until charges are laid, despite the concerns of some parents. .
Anthony Richard Heiter54, was arrested and charged with third-degree criminal sexual behavior with a minor on Thursday morning, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.
Heiter, a first year bilingual spanish immersion teacher at elementary school Hilton Head, is accused of sexually assaulting a school student in October 2018, according to Captain Bob Bromage, spokesman for the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.
Parents are concerned that they were only informed of the incident after the story was released on Thursday.
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"We were completely in the dark from November until now," said Emily Lindsey Quesada, whose son is a student in Heiter's class. "I was angry, hurt and worried for my son when I saw the photographer photographed (from the teacher) make the headlines. I was puzzled by the fact that the school could prevent the parents of its students from doing such a thing. "
She expressed her concerns on social media.
"I'm sad that the school did not even have the audacity to contact the parents of its class when it happened," wrote Quesada on Facebook. "ALL of the parents should have been contacted and offered advice to other students to make sure it did not happen to anyone."
Dozens of other parents and members of the community echoes his feeling on social media.
"I have a hard time understanding why a warrant was not issued immediately when the incident was reported and why he was on PAID leave …" wrote Dalisse Rosado on Facebook.
Officials say the correct process has been followed
Foster and Bromage agreed on Friday that the Sheriff's district and office had carefully considered every step of the investigation process from the beginning.
"The Warden met with the District Director (Human Resources) immediately after speaking to the parents of the (alleged victim) and it was decided that Heiter would be placed on paid administrative leave and removed from his position in the classroom. next day." .
Students were told that Heiter was "coming out of the classroom to deal with personal problems".
"We wanted to make sure the kids knew that he was safe so they were not worried," Foster said.
However, Quesada said that she was "in the dark" as a parent.
"After the November e-mail, I thought he might be suffering from cancer, but I could not have imagined it," she said.
Bromage said that investigations for sexual assault involving a child usually take several months. Children can easily be constraint during testimonial interviews cases therefore require the help of external experts trained in forensic interviews.
"When dealing with a child, the process is different because you have to be careful in the interrogation. It is a different interview technique used by specialists, "said Bromage. "This may involve several medico-legal interviews."
In that case, Horizons full of hope, According to a police report, a child advocacy center, specializing in domestic violence and rape, based in Beaufort County, was contacted to question the victim after the parents reported to the police that they had noticed that the behavior their child had changed drastically in the weeks following the incident.
Bromage said the school district officials had followed the proper protocol by not contacting the parents in November, after the first report of the alleged assault. He said it would be "very unusual" for the sheriff's office to question the parents on the allegations before the charges are laid.
"We need to protect the investigation and prevent any outside influence from compromising it," Bromage said.
On Thursday afternoon, more than seven hours after Heiter went to the sheriff's office, Hilton Head elementary principal Sara Owen sent a letter informing parents of Heiter's arrest.
"Parents and guardians can have perfectly understandable concerns and fears," reads the letter. "They might wonder if the safety of their children has been compromised."
Owen pointed out that Heiter was neither convicted nor convicted, so he should be "presumed innocent until the court system decides otherwise."
The letter contains the guidelines of the Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse, which asks parents who wish to question their children about possible abuses on how to proceed.
Until Friday morning, the sheriff's office had not received any new complaints regarding Heiter, said Bromage.
Hilton Head Elementary is hosting a meeting for parents at 5pm. Tuesday in the red auditorium of the school, says the letter.
On the same day, he was arrested on S.C. Board of Education suspends his certificate of educator from Heiter after examining the evidence.
"Because of the seriousness of these allegations of professional misconduct, Mr. Heiter may pose a threat to the health, safety and well-being of students who may be under his direction and require emergency measures", said the chairman of the board, Del-Gratia Jones. written in a letter.
Heiter can no longer teach in the state as long as a "regular hearing has not taken place and / or this case has not been settled," according to the letter.
The state's decision will affect Heiter's paid administrative status, Foster said.
"We can not employ a teacher who does not have a public education certificate, and he does not have any anymore," he said.
Heiter was released Thursday with a $ 15,000 bail. He incurs up to 15 years in prison when he is convicted of the crime, according to the law of the state.