Former school counselor accused of lewd act on student

By: Diane Cho
By: Diane Cho

September 21, 2006

There have been allegations of sexual misconduct from a counselor at a school for at-risk youth.

It happened at the John De La Howe School in McCormick, South Carolina.

It's a sad story that has parents very concerned.

School is the one place parents expect their kids to be safe, but now they say they wonder just who they can trust.

It was the quiet, small town community that convinced Martina Peterson to raise her two-year-old son in the same place she grew up.

But after the latest sexual allegations at John De La Howe School, she's having second thoughts.

"This shouldn't be happening," Peterson told News 12. "It's small enough here where everyone knows each other. We should know what's going on before it happens. It's horrible we don't know."

26-year-old Sharon Baston is accused of kissing and lying on top of a 13-year-old girl at a cottage on school grounds while she was working as the school's counselor.

"I was distraught, because these kids are our future," Peterson said. "If they're not raising them properly...we don't need more criminals."

"These allegations are deeply disturbing, especially for those who are committed to serving children," the superintendent of the school told News 12. "This type of alleged behavior will not be tolerated at the school."

But some say it's too little, too late.

"The people hiring over there need to do better background checks. We owe those kids at least that much," Peterson said.

And it's the second time in just two months a crime similar to this one has happened in McCormick.

Back in July, a former teacher at McCormick Middle School was accused of showing pornographic material to students.

That has Peterson wondering if this sleepy little community is no longer the place she always knew.

"It's horrible, makes you feel not safe," she said. "Our kids should not have to feel like that."

The superintendent of the school tells us Baston was employed with the school for about six months.

After the allegations were brought to their attention, she was immediately suspended and later fired.

John De La Howe School is a child caring agency and alternative school that takes in at-risk students who are having either behavioral or academic problems. The goal is to teach the students skills so they can return back into their communities.

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