Sexual assault captured on South Carolina school bus video

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JOHNSONVILLE, SC (WBTW) – A report from the Florence County Sheriff’s Office provides chilling details about a possible sexual assault involving elementary school students reported in Johnsonville last week.

The Florence County Sheriff’s Office confirmed on March 10 they were investigating after allegations emerged of “inappropriate activity of a sexual nature involving students on a school bus,” but could give no more information.

According to the report, on March 9, deputies were called to Johnsonville Elementary School after school officials notified the sheriff’s office that a student had told a teacher that a sexual assault had occurred on her bus ride home the day before.

The report says the teacher told the deputy a student had come to her that morning and stated “a student had had sex on the bus during their ride home the previous day.”

The teacher immediately pulled the bus video and witnessed what she believed was a possible rape. School officials were called in to review the footage and law enforcement was contacted.

In the report, the teacher states that the video shows one student forcing the victim to the back of the bus where the victim was pushed on the ground. That student called another person to the back of the bus and left the victim on the ground and walked away, the report says.

The teacher told the deputy that in the video, the victim tried to get from the back of the bus to the front, but they were stopped and forced to the back of the bus again.

The teacher who watched the video witnessed one student trying to pull the victim’s pants down and have sexual intercourse, the report says. The victim tried several times to pull her pants up, but her attacker would not let her.

According to the report, “several other children witnessed this altercation” and one actually put his hand on the victim’s head while another student attempted to continue having sex with the victim.

The deputy was shown a portion of the video and noted in the report that the deputy could see one individual who appeared to be shielding the incident from the bus driver’s view.

The report from the sheriff’s office did not list the ages of the individuals involved.

When asked about the possible consequences for the alleged attackers, Major Michael Nunn with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office says the sheriff’s office is not in a position to comment on the investigation in any manner other than what is noted in the report.

Major Nunn directed any questions about the enrollment status of the students involved in the incident to the school superintendent.

Florence School District Five Superintendent Dr. Randy Smiley says he cannot comment on whether or not the alleged attackers are still enrolled in their respective schools or if they are allowed to ride the school bus.

Dr. Smiley says the school district followed protocol in contacting law enforcement immediately after being told about the incident, and in efforts to “protect the privacy of their students,” the school district could not confirm the alleged attackers continued presence in the school.

According to Dr. Smiley,  the school is following predetermined disciplinary actions with the students involved, and that those disciplinary guidelines could be located on the school district website.

News13 spoke with parents in the area who said they wanted more transparency from the school district and wanted to know how school officials plan to keep their children safe.

“At one point, I felt like kids were safe but now, I feel like a lot of things are being held back and hidden from us. I’d feel a lot more comfortable if parents knew about a lot more about things going on,” said Crystal Cooper, mother of three Johnsonville students. “As far as the bus, put monitors on the buses. I know, it might cost more but it’s worth it. It may save a child’s life.”

Johnsonville school officials say all district buses have cameras and younger students have a seating chart.

Florence School District Five Superintendent Randy Smiley wouldn’t go into detail about what happened, but said the district is working to make sure incidents of this nature don’t happen again.

“We always want our students to feel good about coming here. I think one of the ways to make them feel good is to make sure that they feel safe,” said Smiley. “They are going to have staff that care about them and want to make sure that they get home safe.”

Smiley and Principals in the district are brainstorming ways to train bus drivers and teachers to be more aware. They are also planning to upgrade school cameras on the bus, as well as, in and around schools.

“Safety is important to us. The district is currently working on a bond referendum,” said Smiley. “Part of the funds will go to improve the safety measure we have in the schools as well as on the buses.”

Smiley says the district hasn’t decided whether or not to add a monitor to the bus involved in the incident.

“We have in the past- if we have a bus that needs an assistant. We have placed an assistant on the bus with a bus driver if we feel that it is necessary,” Smiley said.

According to Smiley, in situations like this, school officials first review any video footage that could have captured the incident. Next, policy directs them to contact the parents of the students involved, decide on disciplinary actions and contact law enforcement to investigate.

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