Investigators are looking into whether or not LTC Mitchell Sivas had a a sexual relationship with a student. (WRDW-TV / March 15, 2012)
News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, March 15, 2012
THOMSON, Ga. -- A former JROTC instructor could face criminal charges for an alleged sexual relationship with a student. Now multiple agencies are investigating; all of them trying to get to the bottom of it.
The Thomson Police Department, Columbia County Sheriff's Office and Columbia County School System are comparing notes and statements after the instructor admitted he made a "terrible mistake."
Retired Lt. Col. Mitchell Sivas is no stranger to combat, he spent 26 years in the Army. Now, he's fighting another battle, as investigators determine whether or not the 57-year-old JROTC instructor had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female student at Harlem High School.
"Our teachers are here to educate our kids and broaden their knowledge, but certainly not to take advantage of a child who basically has fallen prey to a school teacher," said Thomson Police Chief Joe Nelson.
Earlier this month after being alerted to a possible relationship, investigators said they found the student at Sivas' home in Thomson.
"That night they told us they had only had dinner and that she had come over to see a police dog that he had purchased," Nelson said.
In an incident report, Sivas told the principal he made a "terrible mistake and was resigning." It also says, after first denying the allegations, the student "did finally admit to having a sexual relationship with LTC Sivas."
"When we questioned the individual, Mr. Sivas, he did advise my officers that he had strong feelings toward the 17-year-old and when we spoke with her she advised us that she had the same strong feelings for him also," Nelson said.
But in Georgia, neither age nor consent matter when you're talking about a student-teacher relationship.
"A school teacher, a principal or an assistant principal can be prosecuted if they are actually having and carrying on an affair with a student," Nelson said. "We certainly don't want school teachers taking advantage of our children. Our children go to school to learn; they don't go to school to be taken advantage of."
News 12 tried to get a comment from Sivas, but he did not answer the door or answer our calls.
"We're going to continue to investigate this case," Nelson said.
News 12 spoke with the 17-year-old's father Thursday. He said Sivas told his daughter he wanted to help her with a school report and invited her over. The father said he believes Sivas then took advantage of the teenager.
The Columbia County superintendent has already filed a report with the professional standards committee and hopes Sivas' teaching certificate is revoked. They tell me Sivas did not actually teach this student, but none the less calls the scandal a disappointment.