UPDATE | Georgia Professional Standards Commission receives complaint against former Columbia Co. teacher

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – The Georgia Professional Standards Commission, a board responsible for certifying and licensing the state's teachers, has received the formal complaint against Lesley Douglas.

If they choose to punish Douglas, she could never teach in the state of Georgia again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018
(News 12 at 6 O’Clock)

HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Former Columbia County teacher Lesley Douglas may never teach in a classroom again, especially if she is added to the sex offender registry.

The law that makes the actions of sexual assault involving a student-teacher illegal was changed back in 2010. It was changed to make sure there were no loopholes after another case out of Harlem High School raised some questions.

Around 2006 there was a case in one of our schools, charges were filed, that person was convicted, and that person went to prison," said Major Steve Morris of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

That case involved another Harlem High School teacher, Melissa Lee Chase. Chase was convicted of sexual assault involving a 16-year-old student.

Chase went to jail, but not for long.

“[She] was in prison a short period of time and then the case or the conviction was overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court," said Major Morris.

Court records show chase appealed, saying the 16-year-old boy consented. When court officials reviewed the state law, they found it covered the “protected classes”, including inmates, students and people in custody.

But they found a flaw - they did not include the specific sentence "consent is not a defense".

“Regardless of age you cannot engage in sexual activity."

After Chase's case, the law was changed and "consent is not a defense" was added in the 2010 revision. That’s why officials say Douglas is charged with sexual assault involving a 19-year-old student.

If 23-year-old Douglas is convicted, she faces penalties of prison, probation and being put on the sex offender registry.

11:45 p.m.
News 12 at 11

HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Twenty-three-year-old-year-old Lesley Douglas is out of jail and out of a job. The former Harlem High teacher resigned not long after being accused of being sexually involved with a 19-year-old student.

"You should be able to trust the person that's teaching your children. You know, you go to school to learn; not to have sexual encounters with someone you're supposed to look up to, really," said Michelle Hampton.

It's the kind of case Columbia County Juvenile Court Judge Doug Flanagan has dealt with for nearly two decades. While both Douglas and the students are over 18, he says there could be a lasting impact.

"I understand you might be legally an adult, but most medical evidence points out that your mind is not fully developed at 18 and 19," stated Judge Flanagan.

It's why Georgia has "supervisory" sexual assault laws in place meant to prevent anyone in a position of power to take advantage of someone they're trusted to look out for.

And they don't just apply to teachers.

"Police officers, prison guards, even in the military! It's against the law in the military for someone who's a sergeant or officer to be having a relationship with lower-ranking people."

A position of power and trust, one Doug says teachers shouldn't take lightly.

"If you've got a child in high school, no matter what age they are, you want to make sure that the laws are there to protect the youth and that the school system will make sure that people follow the rules."

Those supervisory laws are set in place in Georgia but South Carolina has similar laws when it comes to students and teachers. Really anyone affiliated with a school that is sexually involved with a student could face felony sexual battery charges.

And while the age of consent in both states is 16 someone like a teacher could still face up to five years in South Carolina and up to 25 years in prison in Georgia.

To find out more about Georgia’s laws on sexual assault  CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018
(News 12 at 6 O’clock)

HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – A married 23-year-old teacher at Harlem High School has resigned after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a student.

News 12 has learned it was another student who sounded the alarm on Lesley Douglas. That’s when the Columbia County School Board took action, starting an investigation by questioning the 19-year-old student they believed to be involved with Douglas.

Celeste Hampton's little sister goes to Harlem High School. She says her sister was familiar with Douglas as a teacher.

“She wouldn't have expected her to do it because she said you know she was young too and she just now started working there and all that, she was new," said Hampton.

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office says Douglas is charged with sexual assault. She was arrested Monday, less than a week after the sheriff’s Office got a call from the school board.

Douglas resigned April 12th, the day after the investigation kicked off.

"She emailed her resignation to the principal, they had not even spoken."

An arrest warrant says the sexual assault in question was committed on March 27th, at the Winfield Boat Ramp in Appling. These are actions the Columbia County School Board says they do not tolerate.

It's zero tolerance for any of our employees whether they're a teacher or not we expect them not to have relationship with our students so we have zero tolerance for it," said Associate Superintendent Jeff Carney.

The Board of Education says it is reaching out to the 19-year-old student.

"We'll be checking with him to see what kind of support that he needs. We don't like any of our students being put in this position," said Carney.

Parents like Michelle Hampton hope their children will never have to see something like this happen again.

You should be able to trust the person that's teaching your children."

As for the age difference and the law, the sheriff’s office says it’s illegal since the student is under the supervision of the teacher. If the 19 year old had been enrolled at a different school, there wouldn’t be any charges.

4:23 p.m.

HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Douglas is out of jail Tuesday afternoon on a $5,000 bond.

10:58 a.m.

HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Officials with Columbia County Schools say Douglas resigned on April 12.

The school system says the Columbia County Sheriff's Office was called to the school April 11, after administrators were told about an inappropriate relationship between Douglas and her student.

Douglas had been working for the school district for about a year. In a statement, district leaders say the following:

"The Columbia County School District is committed to providing its students with the best education possible in a safe, positive environment. In doing so, we hold our faculty and staff to the highest standards and have zero tolerance for any behavior that detracts from our mission."

According to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, Douglas has not been offered bond.

We have spoken to Douglas' husband, Dylan Douglas, who confirms she was married when this happened. He did not want to comment further.

10:15 a.m.

HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- According to an arrest warrant, Douglas is a teacher at Harlem High School.

Investigators say she had a sexual relationship with a 19 year-old student at the school.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- An educator at Harlem High School is behind bars for sexual assault.

23 year-old Lesley Trapnell Douglas was arrested Monday and charged with Sexual Assault Against a Person in Custody, meaning someone she had authority over.

The incident allegedly happened at Winfield Hills Boat Ramp 2 on the 7500 block of Lakeside Drive.

When deputies were called to the school about a suspicious situation, they spoke with the school principal, Dietmar Perez, about the suspect being involved in a possible inappropriate relationship.

Check back for the latest on this developing story.