Originally created 05/16/03

Teacher avoids criminal charges



NORTH AUGUSTA - A suspended teacher at North Augusta High School will not face criminal charges after being accused of sexually harassing a female student, police investigators said Thursday.

But that has not changed the recommendation of Aiken County School Superintendent Linda Eldridge that suspended choir director Kevin Creel be fired.

North Augusta Public Safety investigators decided Wednesday not to file charges against Mr. Creel almost two months after the mother of the student filed a complaint that said the educator "had been sending suggestive messages over the Internet."

That complaint was not documented by police until April 30, a 41-day delay that Public Safety Director Lee Wetherington blamed on one of his school resource officers, Eddie Turner.

When asked about the delay, Chief Wetherington said it was because Officer Turner had "screwed up."

When asked April 23 about the incident, Chief Wetherington said there was no record on file regarding the mother's complaint. The chief said he started asking questions about the missing paperwork after an April 24 report in The Augusta Chronicle prompted the mother to again contact police.

Incident reports, if warranted, are supposed to be filed by the responding officer on the day they occur, the chief said.

"(The officer) has been chastised over it," he said. "It was his opinion that it didn't (warrant an incident report), which was a bad choice."

School Superintendent Linda Eldridge would not comment on why Mr. Creel is suspended or why his job has been recommended for termination.

She did say she was glad that no criminal charges will be filed against the teacher.

Patti Weeks, who filed the complaint, said she has been talking with Officer Turner since March 21 about Internet messages from Mr. Creel to her daughter, who was 16 at the time. She said the messages were inappropriate..

Mrs. Weeks expressed dismay about the way her complaint was handled.

"Well, I'll have to call up the chief about that and find out why it wasn't handled more expediently," she said. "I'm confused as to why it was handled the way it was."

The school district's investigation started when Mrs. Weeks contacted school authorities and Officer Turner. Mr. Creel was then placed on administrative leave.

In a certified letter dated April 13 that Mr. Creel received Thursday, Dr. Eldridge informed him that he was on suspension and would not be recommended for a renewed teaching contract.

If Mr. Creel appeals, the school board will review her recommendation.

Reach Sara Bancroft at (803) 279-6895 or sara.bancroft@augustachronicle.com.