SLED investigating allegations of grade tampering in Williamsburg County School District

Hemingway High School (WPDE)

The State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is investigating allegations of grade tampering at Hemingway Highway School in the Williamsburg County School District, according to SLED Communications Director Thom Berry.

Berry didn't provide any additional information.

Amanda Williams tells us she contacted administrators with Williamsburg County School District about two weeks ago after she learned her daughter was no longer the valedictorian for the Hemingway senior class, but the salutatorian.

Williams provided us with paperwork that stated her daughter's GPA as of March 26 was 4.6 and she was number one out of her class of 56 students.

She said she knew something was wrong because her daughter had the highest GPA in the class for more than a year, until a few days before graduation.

Williams added she complained to the district's state-appointed Superintendent Rose Wilder who promised to look into the situation.

Williams said the school will not name a valedictorian or salutatorian until the SLED investigation is completed.

She added she and her daughter will be interviewed by the SLED agent sometime Wednesday.

The S.C. Department of Education took over management of the district back in April following years of problems with it.

We talked with the State Department of Education's Chief Communications Officer Ryan Brown who released the following statement to us regarding Williams' concerns:

"We conduct routine audits and review state and federal programs and procedures for all districts. Due to the nature of the state takeover in Williamsburg, those reviews did not take place randomly as is usually the custom, they were done to ensure the district is in compliance with all state and federal requirements and that measures are in place to promote student learning.

In regards to valedictorian or salutatorian, identifying those students is not required and is a school/district option that I assume the school has decided not to exercise. I do not believe there is any connection with the above references reviews. "

Former Hemingway High School Varsity Boy's Basketball Coach Andre Weathers filed a lawsuit last week against the district for wrongful termination in violation of the Teacher Dismissal Act, Whistleblower Act and public policy and civil conspiracy, due to process violations, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress or outrage and negligent retention and supervision, according to a copy of the lawsuit.

Weathers said he warned the State Department of Education in 2016 about grade tampering at Hemingway Highway High School.

"When I called and talked to the state department, the lady told me, she said she needed evidence. I said well ma'am, I am the evidence. They coming in my classroom, sitting on my computer and changing the grade for the students. It took something that's being repeated over and over and over and over, for SLED and everybody else to get involved. But I already said this in 2016. And here we are in 2018," said Weathers.

Brown said they take allegations of grade tampering seriously and if there is any wrongdoing found, those involved will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

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