A Dorchester County middle school teacher is accused of kissing and sending sexual text messages to a 12-year-old student over the course of several months, according to court documents.
Allison Leigh Chilton, 27, was arrested Tuesday after the student's father told deputies he suspected Chilton was engaged in an inappropriate relationship with his daughter, a student at Oakbrook Middle School in Ladson.
Chilton, of Durant Lane in Manning, is charged with one count of criminal solicitation of a minor and two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
Chilton is a special education teacher in English language arts and mathematics, according to the school's website. She has been employed by Dorchester District 2 since 2013, said Pat Raynor, a district spokeswoman.
District officials placed Chilton on paid administrative leave, in accordance with state law, after the allegations surfaced. As of Thursday, Chilton is no longer employed by the district. The state Board of Education is also working to summarily suspend Chilton's educator certificate, according to Ryan Brown, a spokesman for the S.C. Department of Education.
The student's father filed a report with Dorchester County Sheriff's authorities Jan. 2 after he found text messages from Chilton on his daughter's phone. One message from Chilton read, "I want to be your wife," while another said, "I just want to hold you," according to an incident report.
The father told investigators he believed the relationship started the prior year when Chilton was his daughter's teacher, but he didn't have proof until recently. He said he learned his daughter had been meeting Chilton in the classroom while the other students were out for recess. His daughter was supposedly getting extra help with her schoolwork.
Affidavits allege Chilton fondled and open-mouth kissed the student between the months of August and December. Chilton told investigators she kissed the girl and exchanged text messages with her regarding a sexual relationship, the court documents state.
Chilton has posted $30,000 bail, authorities said. The S.C. Attorney General's Office is prosecuting the case.
Chilton is the second South Carolina teacher this year to face disciplinary action from the state Board of Education for allegedly engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a student. In 2017, the state Board of Education suspended, revoked or accepted the surrender of at least 26 teachers' educator certificates over allegations of sexual misconduct or impropriety involving students or minors, according to a review of teacher disciplinary orders.
Their alleged offenses ranged from exchanging inappropriate text messages with students to criminal sexual conduct and the possession of child pornography.
As recently as this past December, another Lowcountry educator, Burke High School math teacher Jennifer Danielle Olajire-Aro, was arrested after being accused of having a sexual relationship with an underage student. She is charged with one count of sexual battery with a student 16 or 17 years of age and is on paid administrative leave.
The U.S. Department of Education doesn't collect data on teacher sexual abuse, so assessing the prevalence of the problem is difficult. But according to a 2004 federal report, 1 in 10 students nationwide will endure sexual misconduct at the hands of a school employee before they graduate from high school.
Teacher arrests for sexual misconduct and sexually-based crimes are on the rise, according to data collected by the Las Vegas-based advocacy organization, Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation, or SESAME. The group has identified 688 teachers across the country who were arrested for sex crimes in 2017, up from 459 teachers in 2014.
"You can look at it a couple ways: The problem is getting worse or people are getting more informed and more reporting is happening. We like to think that it’s the latter," said SESAME President Terri Miller. "And I think this whole #MeToo movement is also playing a part in more reporting."
This story has been updated to reflect Chilton's employment status.