Pelion, SC (Paul Kirby) - A group of concerned parents met in a small park in the town of Pelion last Tuesday after someone learned that a man who had been convicted of a felony that involved a child was volunteering at the town’s only middle school. Some of those parents had heard that the volunteer had been working in at least one classroom at the school and had gone on a trip to Myrtle Beach with the entire grade earlier in the spring. The meeting, which took place before noon, made the parents concerned but most importantly, they resolved to handle the situation in such a way that the school district would find out and put a stop to that volunteer’s presence at the school. Shortly after lunch, the group had a parent call The Lexington Ledger. That parent told The Ledger’s staff, “We aren’t trouble makers, we just want him gone.” That phone call put into motion an immediate investigation that left the volunteer barred from school properties and the teacher who had brought him to the school on paid administrative leave.
According to a tipster that had shared with the parents a hand-written note, a few years ago, Theron William Robinson was charged in Aiken County several years ago with inappropriately touching a girl under the age of 13. The original charge against him was third-degree criminal sexual assault. The case was adjudicated and he eventually pled to a lesser charge of first-degree assault and battery. This is often done to spare the victim the further trauma of having to appear and testify at a trial. This is especially true when a key part of the case revolves around the testimony of the victim. Robinson was sentenced to 90 days of jail which he was allowed to serve at least part of on weekends so that he could keep his job. He is also on probation until 2021. This was all part of an easily accessible public record that could be found on-line if you knew you needed to look for it.
Robinson eventually began dating and later became engaged to a teacher who was working at Pelion Middle and coaching the girls’ volleyball team. No one has said if she knew of her new boyfriend’s background. The teacher eventually asked Robinson to do some volunteer work and to help coach the volleyball team. A spokesperson with Lexington School District One says the volunteer was assisting his fiancée, who was the coach of the girls’ volleyball team. He also attended a field trip with the 6th grade students to Myrtle Beach where he is known to have helped deliver lunches. The catch was that Robinson had never filled out any of the district’s required forms to volunteer or had gone through their background check screening. He apparently did that by using his relationship with his teacher fiancée to bypass the procedures. Robinson was basically flying under the radar and had been around the school children until that citizen’s note was revealed.
When the staff at The Lexington Ledger received the phone call, the parents were asked to provide a copy of the letter they had and all other paperwork they had regarding the situation. They did this immediately. They also sent a photograph of Robinson by text. They were also asked what they wanted from their phone call; were they reaching out to the media in an attempt to try and tarnish District One or were they simply trying to do what was right for the children. They emphatically said that they were trying to keep all children safe and the district’s reputation wasn’t of concern in the matter.
The staff of The Ledger immediately called a high-ranking District One official and informed him of the situation. The official was shocked and asked that all the information, including the photograph that The Ledger staff had in hand be sent to them at once. That was done as well.
Within an hour, the district’s staff was back in touch with The Ledger asking more detailed questions regarding what contact Robinson had with groups of children on the field trip. Since the editor of The Ledger’s child had attended that field trip, she was shown pictures and asked questions by her parents and that information was relayed within minutes to the district. Within hours, the district was actively investigating and taking action. As it turned out, the middle school’s principal had already barred Robinson from volunteering at the school.
In a statement released later in the week, Lexington District One said, "District and school administrators began an investigation. Acting in accordance with Board Policy and district procedure, district administrators placed the teacher on leave pending an inquiry into the situation." Their statement also said, "Our initial investigation indicates that he was never alone with students and has not been on campus since early May. However, district administrators continue to investigate the level of this individual’s supervision of students and responsibilities." The district’s statement made it clear that, "In this particular case, the individual in question did not fill out the HR 64 Volunteer Profile and Consent Form and should have."
Because of the relationship with the teacher, this man was able to slip through the guards the district had in place that would have snagged another volunteer with a similar background. It can make one wonder Robinson's motives regarding his personal relationship with the teacher. It might have been possible for Robinson to pull one over on the school, he might have done the same with his teacher and fiancée. He wasn’t, however, able to get past the watchful eyes of the parents’; mamma bears watching their cubs. This was a case of parents doing the right thing for the right reason and that is how the children were protected.
Lexington School District One has a district-mandated requirement to fill out a human resources document, HR 64 Volunteer Profile and Consent Form, prior to volunteering on or off school district property. The school district makes volunteers complete a background check if a volunteer directly works with and is responsible for the safety of its students. That includes chaperones, volunteer coaches, mentors, volunteer helpers with students.
In the future it seems prudent for Lexington School District One to review the situation side-by-side with their policy to see if changes may be needed. Then, they can re-write and re-train if needed to prevent something like this from ever happening again.