Two juvenile special needs students at Edisto High School are undergoing counseling after one of their classmates allegedly sexually assaulted them, according to Rep. Justin Bamberg.
"This should've never happened," said Bamberg, an attorney representing the two students who say they were assaulted.
"How was this allowed to happen more than once? I think it speaks to a much larger problem, though, such as student-teacher ratios and hiring certified teachers."
The S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice is charging a special needs male juvenile student with two counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, victim under 16 years of age, according to documents provided by Bamberg, D-Bamberg.
According to redacted Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office incident reports, three incidents allegedly occurred around Feb. 20 and Feb. 21.
In the first incident, one of the juvenile victims told deputies that he saw two classmates engaging in a sexual act in a restroom near the school's auditorium. He said he told the two to stop, and the suspect allegedly tried to kiss him.
He told deputies that he pushed the suspect away and walked to the bathroom stall to use the restroom.
He alleged the suspect tried to engage in a specific sexual manner with him.
That's when he punched the suspect in his back and ran out of the restroom, the report said.
A week later, the other juvenile in the restroom told his mother about the incident. He alleged he was forced into the sex act in the auditorium restroom.
He also alleged the suspect threatened him and his classmate if they told anyone about what happened.
The second incident allegedly occurred in the special education classroom restroom while a substitute teacher was using a cellphone, according to the incident reports.
And in a third incident, the suspect allegedly attempted to get the victim to engage in a sexual manner in the hallway.
Bamberg said neither of the juvenile victims has returned to school, but each is completing assignments at home.
The sheriff's office turned the case over to the Department of Juvenile Justice on March 19.
The accused juvenile will undergo an evaluation at DJJ to determine further steps concerning his charges, Bamberg said.
Bamberg said he blames Edisto High School for allowing an uncertified substitute teacher to be in charge of the special needs class on the day that one of the alleged assaults occurred.
"We've just got to make sure that our special needs students get all of the attention they need because all kids need supervising, monitoring and education," Bamberg said.
"Everyone needs to care enough to protect them."
As for filing a lawsuit against Orangeburg Consolidated School District 4, Bamberg said, "It's obvious the district is going to face civil liability and whether we file suit or not is dependent on them and whether they make us."
He said the two juvenile victims need continued counseling and deserve compensation.
"The parents and community need to know that their kids are safe at school," Bamberg said.
Attempts to reach the district's superintendent and Edisto High School principal this week were unsuccessful. The district is on spring break.
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