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Reading program leader pleaded guilty to indecencies with CMS student

By Rachel Southmayd
rsouthmayd@heraldonline.com

A Rock Hill man who helped organize a summer reading program for local elementary school children pleaded guilty in 2008 to taking indecent liberties with a 16-year-old student in Charlotte, according to court documents.

Jerry Seale was involved this summer with a program that partnered Boyd Hill Baptist Church with York Road Elementary School. The program was held at the church, and York Road assisted by providing volunteers, books, a district school bus and by marketing the camp to students.

The principal of York Road Elementary said Seale did not work with students in the program, called Summer Safari. Rather, he was an organizer or contact person for the program, said the principal, Patrick Robinson.

Seale was a teacher at Derita Alternative School in Charlotte when he was charged in 2007 with four counts of felony sex offense with a student. He resigned from the school after his arrest.

Seale told the Charlotte Observer in 2007 that he was innocent. He said the accusations were made in retribution. “People who know me, they know what kind of person I am,” he said.

When contacted this week about the case, Seale said he had to talk with his lawyer. On Wednesday, his attorney, Kimberly Simmons, said Seale stood by his 2007 comments.

Seale pleaded guilty in April 2008 to different charges: four counts of taking indecent liberties with a student, according to North Carolina court records. He was sentenced to community service and probation.

At the time, anyone convicted in North Carolina of taking indecent liberties with a student did not have to register as a sex offender. North Carolina now requires registration for anyone convicted of the offense after November 2009.

After Seale pleaded guilty, the North Carolina Board of Education revoked his state teaching license. In April 2009, the South Carolina Board of Education did the same. Seale, a former teacher and coach in Rock Hill and Chester, signed a document with the S.C. board agreeing to never again work or volunteer in a South Carolina public school.

This summer’s reading program was featured in the July 12 edition of The Herald. The program, which ended last week, was for children in kindergarten through the second grade.

Each day, students participated in reading and comprehension activities, arts and crafts and physical exercise. The program started on June 17, and between 25 and 35 children attended each day.

Teachers from York Road Elementary and area middle school students volunteered to participate in the program, facilitating activities for the children who attended.

In the July 12 story, Seale said the program was his idea. He said he established the partnership with York Road Elementary. Boyd Hill Baptist - the church he attends - volunteered the space.

On a flyer distributed to students and in an announcement submitted to The Herald, Seale’s home phone number was listed as a contact for the program, along with the school’s and the church’s.

Official volunteers with the Rock Hill school district undergo extensive background checks, said Robinson, the York Road Elementary principal. Because Seale was not considered a volunteer, there was no need to run a check.

Seale, 67, is not listed as an official volunteer with the Rock Hill school district. Robinson said Seale was not alone at any time with the children in Summer Safari.

“We pride ourselves on taking care of our children and screening those who are around them,” Robinson said. “Yes, his name was connected with the program but it was more just a name only.”

“He had very little to do with it at all, other than to contact us and to allow us the use of (Boyd Hill Baptist Church),” he said. “In our estimation, he was not even a volunteer.”

Seale has been involved in one other local children’s program. He has worked with Camp High Hopes, another summer program based at Boyd Hill Baptist Church, said Winslow Schock, whose organization, Cheer for Children, worked with both Summer Safari and High Hopes.

High Hopes was a day camp for children aged 9-15 that ran from June 17 to June 28, emphasizing “physical activity, academics, arts and crafts and spiritual development,” according to an announcement submitted to The Herald.

Both Schock and Robinson said they did not know about Seale’s criminal background.

“I’m just totally taken aback,” Schock said. “That’s sort of sad.”

Several messages left at Boyd Hill Baptist Church and at the home of the pastor, J. Thomas Barber, were not returned.

Southmayd 803-329-4072
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