Teachers' arrests on sex charges not linked, officials say

GRANITEVILLE --- In the past month Leavelle McCampbell Middle School's name has been linked to the arrests of two former teachers charge with criminal sexual conduct with former students, but parents of pupils say it's still a great school and the situations were just a coincidence.

On Monday, Joseph Jay Magni Jr., 28, of Lexington, was arrested for incidents that occurred with a 14-year-old girl at Aiken Mall Cinemas and the middle school earlier this year, according to the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.

Another former Leavelle McCampbell teacher, Tammy Joy Key, 38, of Graniteville, was charged on Oct. 20 with four counts of a lewd act and four counts of criminal sexual conduct with a 14-year-old former student.

The Graniteville woman is accused of having sex with a 14-year-old boy at her home and at Leavelle McCampbell, where she teaches math, between 2005 and 2006, according to the sheriff's office.

"You can do background checks, but it doesn't mean you can always catch someone," said Andrea Van Buren, the parent of an eighth-grader.

Mrs. Van Buren said her daughter was in Ms. Key's class and never had a problem. Her daughter actually requested to transfer back to Leavelle McCampbell after she was rezoned for another school last year.

"It feels safe here," Mrs. Van Buren said.

Chris Rhodes, the father of a sixth-grader, said the administration has been great and "you can go to them about what you need to" with no problems.

"I think the leadership is good, I just want to know what they are doing to take care of it. We haven't heard anything from the school," he said.

Aiken County Schools attorney Bill Burkhalter said Ms. Key, who was employed at Langley-Bath-Clearwater Middle when she was arrested, was being investigated, but Mr. Magni and Leavelle McCampbell were not under investigation.

Mr. Magni is not a school district employee because his contract with Aiken County was not renewed at the end of last year.

Mr. Burkhalter said when allegations are made teachers typically are placed on leave during the investigation, and law enforcement is brought in if there was criminal conduct.

In Mr. Magni's case no complaints were filed with Leavelle McCampbell Principal Jackie Barnwell to warrant an investigation, he said.

Mr. Burkhalter said the arrests weren't linked.

"Unfortunately in districts our size, from time to time these things do occur," he said.

Parent Mary Moseley said she discussed the arrest with her son, who's in sixth grade at Leavelle McCampbell, to reiterate that he should complain if anything inappropriate should ever happen.

"I feel it's getting harder to send your kids to school," Ms. Moseley said. "It's all of Aiken County, not just this school. If I have to show up and sit all day long in my child's class, I'll do that to make sure he's not being harassed."

Reach Julia Sellers at (706) 823-3424 or julia.sellers@augustachronicle.com.