IRWINTON -- The second of two Wilkinson County High School teachers accused this week of molesting a female sophomore at the school made his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon.
Rodney J. Hunter, a 43-year-old Junior ROTC teacher at the school, was arrested Tuesday on a child molestation charge, which stemmed from an investigation into Cornelius Dante Jones, 29, a math teacher at the school who was charged Monday with child molestation.
Both men are accused of having inappropriate contact with the same 15-year-old at the school. Jones taught at the school two years, while Hunter taught there three years.
Wilkinson County school Superintendent Aaron Geter said Wednesday that a teacher overheard a conversation about the involvement of the student with Jones and told officials in the schools administration. Those officials, in turn, informed Geter of the situation Friday afternoon, and Geter contacted Sheriff Richard Chatman the next day.
Sheriffs investigators conducted extensive interviews with the female student and were able to view some of the evidence on video. Geter said all of the schools classrooms and hallways, as well as some other areas, are under video surveillance.
Chatman said there were several instances of inappropriate contact between Jones and the girl, including hugging, kissing and an instance of oral sex on Jan. 22. Those incidents were captured on video.
Chatman said Hunter kissed the student, but there wasnt any evidence of any other sexual contact.
Chatman said the investigation is ongoing, but no other teachers are suspected of being involved. Also, no other students have come forward with accusations, officials said.
Geter said nothing of this magnitude has taken place during his four years as superintendent.
My reaction (when informed of the accusation) was to get to the bottom of this, to find out if it was true or false, he said. The overriding thing is the safety of these kids.
Because the county is small and tight-knit, Geter said there has been a lot of talk of the molestation charges.
When you have something like this, everybodys concerned and everybody is impacted, said Geter, whose own daughter attends the high school. This is a very loving community. Everyone is probably more concerned for the welfare of the child.
Geter stressed to the media Wednesday that the districts schools are safe and the incidents were isolated.
We want to create an environment in the schools that is conducive to learning, he said.
Wilkinson County school board Chairwoman Marjo Baisden said the district works diligently to keep students safe, but she said no system is perfect.
We have a good system, she said. It could happen to anybody. Im sorry it occurred in our system. Were trying to get back to what we need to do for our students.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.