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Cheraw High School: Teen Harassment Scandal Puts District Under Microscope

Threatening messages prompt law enforcement probe, criticism of school leaders …

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Kids will be kids.  We get it.  We were fifteen years old once … although we grew up in what Rush drummer/ lyricist Neil Peart called “a better managed time.”

Which, incidentally, wasn’t quite as well-managed as Peart’s time.

Nostalgia aside, though, kids will be kids.  And adults will often be kids, too … especially when matters of the heart (or the libido) are concerned.

All of the urges and impulses affecting young people today are the same as they ever were (and the same as they will always be).  Certainly, though, the array of technological methods that allow for these impulses to be acted upon – and the social context in which they often are acted upon – has changed dramatically.

In some cases that’s a good thing, in many other cases … not so much.

In a society conditioned by our politicians, institutions and media mouthpieces to inflexibly accept absolutism  … it is important to remember every case is different.

Of course, we also need to remember that within the diverse panoply of human experience, there are basic rules which must govern human interaction – one of them being the notion of consent.  As libertarians, we generally believe consenting adults ought to be able to interact with other consenting adults in any manner they they see fit … so long as there is, well, consent.  And so long as these interactions do not deprive others of their liberty.

Absent consent, though, the paradigm shifts.  For the purposes of this narrative, we mean it like this: Someone’s ability to seek out someone else in the hopes of establishing a romantic attraction and/ or obtaining sexual gratification must necessarily end at the moment the individual they are seeking makes it clear they do not wish to be pursued in such a manner.

No means no … and individuals who find themselves on the receiving end of harassing behavior (i.e. repeated, unwanted advances after the seeker has been put on notice) should take any and all measures at their disposal to protect their right not to be bothered.

Or, in this case, not to be threatened …

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This story isn’t about consenting adults, though.  As we noted in our lede, it is about kids …

Last week, this news outlet received a tip related to Cheraw High School in rural Chesterfield County, S.C.  Regular readers will recall this school has been on our radar in the past, having been accused of grade inflation as well as questionable judgment in response to allegations of politically motivated bullying.

This story is much different, though …

“FITS needs to see what is going on over at Cheraw High School with females being sexually assaulted and harassed,” our source noted.  “Please report on this because it is happening right here in our area (and) desperately needs media attention!”

The source added that the alleged harassment centers around a 15-year-old male student said to have been sending multiple females at the school graphically explicit and, at times, threatening messages through a variety of electronic means.

In addition to providing us with this anecdotal information, our source informed us that multiple electronic devices had been collected by local authorities in connection with the alleged harassment and that “SLED is involved,” referring to the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division.

(Click to view)

(Via: Provided)

Furthermore, our sources alleged that officials at Cheraw High (above) mishandled the allegations due to a personal relationship existing between the principal of the school, Jason Bryant, and the male student accused of the harassing behavior.  Specifically, the principal is an officer at a local church where the student’s father is employed.

Beyond that, parents of female students are concerned the school has not only failed to adequately discipline the male student, but has in fact enabled his alleged behavior – while at the same time lashing out at those seeking to bring the situation to light.

Obviously, we receive tips like this all the time.  Usually there is a kernel of truth to them … but a lot of exaggeration, misrepresentation or deliberate omission.  Oftentimes, the tips are related to complicated interpersonal dramas that – while perhaps accurate – have little news value.

Not this time, though … this time the tip was spot-on.

Our sources at SLED confirmed last week that the agency’s computer crimes division was indeed “providing some technical assistance” to the Cheraw police department, specifically examining multiple electronic devices for the agency.  From there, we were able to obtain incident reports from local law enforcement indicating that an investigation was indeed underway into the male student.

Beyond this, we were provided with screenshots of some of the harassing/ threatening messages allegedly sent by the male student to females – and were eventually able to speak on the record with a mother of one of the alleged victims.

Not surprisingly, she pulled no punches in her assessment of the situation.

We will not be naming any of the alleged underage female victims related to this matter – nor at this point are we naming the male student accused of harassing them.  We do, however, reserve the right to name the male student in the event he is ever charged in connection with this ongoing investigation – or in the event we believe student safety has been jeopardized due to bureaucratic or law enforcement inaction in this matter.

According to the Cheraw police department incident report – which was filed on January 25 of this year – one of the alleged female victims stated that the male student continued “to ask for inappropriate pictures even after being told ‘no’ and to stop messaging (her).”

The report also cited one of the alleged victims as saying the male student was “also sending pictures of himself nude” to her and to “many other females in her school.”

Numerous messages detailing this pattern of alleged harassment were provided to local law enforcement.  Here are just two examples …

(Click to view)

(Via: Provided)

“I wanna f*ck your insides up until you rip in half,” the male student allegedly wrote one of the female students last summer, accompanying this message with a smiley face.

Those are just a few of the messages we were provided … others are even more graphic and threatening, including one in which the male student allegedly threatened to hack a female at the school who rebuffed him “into pieces.”

Unfortunately, it appears as though leaders at Cheraw High School have failed to take appropriate disciplinary action against the male student.  Not only that, it appears as though they forced at least one of his alleged female victims to leave a class as a result of his behavior.

“Cheraw is a place where instead of taking the problem out of the class they remove the student standing up for us,” one female student wrote in a message provided to this news outlet.

School officials “did nothing” to the male student, according to the message.

“I told the principal I didn’t even feel comfortable (being) in the same room as him, and what he did was put us in his office with (the male student) to ‘talk about it,'” she continued in the message. “I was so upset I forgave the kid just to get away from him.  To this day this kid still walks around doing the same thing to others I just want this stopped.”

Unbelievable …

Many of the alleged victims have rallied behind a woman named Maria Cruz, whose daughter is one of the female students allegedly harassed in this case.  A New Jersey native, Cruz has been relentless in her efforts to hold school officials accountable for their alleged mishandling of this situation.

She spoke to us this week about what happened when she tried to stand up for her daughter – and other girls at the school.

(Click to view)

(Via: Provided)

“When I went to the high school and informed them of what happened to my daughter I was told that they were already aware of the same situation with the boy and a different child,” Cruz (above) told us. “I was told that when the school talked to the boy about that incident he said that he was hacked.  I asked them to set up a meeting with his family, I was told that it would take a while before they could arrange that.”

Undeterred, Cruz continued to press school and district leaders for answers.

“I asked if they could ask the boy to bring his phone in and put it on the desk and let my child message the phone to see if it sent to the phone the boy had,” she said. “They refused to do that. I then asked what they were going to do about the situation and was told that the authorities were handling it.  I asked what was going to be done to ensure my daughter was going to be safe at the school. I was told that they could not discuss that with me because they do not tell other parents what they do with other people’s children.”

Eventually, school officials appear to have grown weary of Cruz’s efforts.  On February 4, following a conference with one of her daughter’s academic counselors, she was provided with a letter from Cheraw’s principal dated January 25 informing her that she was banned from school property.

The irony, right?

“If you violate this trespass notice, you are subject to be arrested for trespassing,” the letter stated.

Take a look …

(Click to view)

(Via: Proviided)

Cruz told us she was never provided a reason for the letter, “just what was on the paper.”

According to her, district officials are angry at her for going public with details of their alleged “cover-up” of this scandal – including accusations of preferential treatment for the “entitled” male student at the center of it.

“He was out for a week and the next Monday he was back in school,” Cruz said. “I contacted the district office to find out why and they said because he has a right to an education. I was told that even if he was charged with anything he would still be able to remain in school if they couldn’t prove that the messages were done on school property.”

This news outlet reached out to Bryant in an effort to get a response from the school but did not immediately receive a response.  In keeping with our open microphone policy, he and/ or any other member of the administration at Cheraw High School – and/ or the Chesterfield County school district – are more than welcome to address our readers directly at any point in the future on this or any other issue.

We will publish their remarks unedited and in their entirety.

The same goes for the male student and/ or his parents in the event forthcoming events compel us to disclose his identity.

Sources close to the school’s administration told us that because the alleged harassment took place after school hours – and off of school property – that they were necessarily limited in their ability to respond, and that they were awaiting the results of local law enforcement’s investigation before deciding how to “best proceed.”

Our view?  Based on the graphic and threatening messages we have been provided, this situation strikes us as something more than just a boy who refuses to take “no” for an answer.  It seems to us as though there are deeper, darker psychological issues at play – issues that could very well compromise student safety on this campus if not addressed appropriately.

As we noted at the outset, kids will be kids … but incessant, unwanted harassment of a sexually explicit nature (and accompanying threats of bodily harm) cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.  No matter the age.

This news outlet will obviously continue to follow this story as it unfolds.  In the meantime, we certainly hope district and community leaders will take the necessary steps to ensure that students at Cheraw High School are kept safe.

***

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