2 teachers arrested, charged

Scott Larue Knight

Girls complained at Military Magnet, West Ashley High

Student complaints about sexually suggestive comments have led to the arrest of two teachers at separate Charleston County schools.

The particulars differ, though both cases involve female teenage students leveling accusations against male teachers.

West Ashley High teacher Scott Larue Knight, 38, was arrested Wednesday and charged with two counts of harassment in connection with a 14-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl, according to reports from the Charleston County Sheriff's Office.

Military Magnet teacher Larry Nathaniel Smith, 40, was arrested Tuesday and charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, a warrant states. A 15-year-old student accuses him of making various sexually explicit comments and trying to physically assault her, according to the warrant.

The arrests come as several other Lowcountry public school teachers have been accused of criminal offenses involving students. Charleston County school officials were unsure why.

"I believe these are isolated incidents and not reflective of any pattern of behavior at all," Associate Superintendent Louis Martin said.

Teachers and guidance counselors have had a policy that existed well before this year which encourages students to report any problems with teachers or other staff, Martin said.

Police and district officials began looking into the case at Military Magnet on Oct. 30. A student at the school on North Charleston's Carner Avenue told a guidance counselor that things Smith said to her during the previous two weeks made her feel uncomfortable, a police report states.

"The employee was put on leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation," Martin said. "The district (investigation) is just now coming to its final stages."

Smith was being held at Charleston County jail after Magistrate Linda Lombard set his bail Wednesday at $50,000.

The charges against Knight at West Ashley High surfaced Tuesday, sheriff's reports show.

"According to the victims, Mr. Knight has been approaching them and making sexual and unwelcome gestures toward them," Capt. Mike Benton said. "He would even go so far as to go to their classrooms that he wasn't assigned to."

The older student said the harassment began in June, while the younger student said it began in September, reports show. Knight was scheduled to appear in Charleston County bond court today, Benton said.

District public information officer Elliot Smalley was unable to provide details about either teacher's specific duties or length of employment with the district. Knight also has been placed on paid leave, Smalley said.

Authorities did not want to compare the cases, but said there could be good reasons for the differing criminal charges.

"The warrant is the bare minimum of the facts," said 9th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Debbie Herring-Lash. "The law enforcement agency is making their charges based on everything they know about the case."

Other recent incidents at Charleston County schools include a Stall High teaching assistant charged last month with helping a student leave a group home. The student told authorities they carried on a sexual relationship, though there were no charges because the student was considered a consenting adult under state law, authorities said. The State Law Enforcement Division arrested a Charleston firefighter and former physical education teacher at James Island Middle School earlier this month on charges he tried to coerce a 14-year-old student into having an intimate relationship in 2005.

In Dorchester District 2, a Summerville High School teacher resigned in late October after being accused of providing tequila to two 16-year-old girls and twice taking one of the students off campus for lunch. Police arrested him on three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and two counts of enticing an enrolled child from attendance in public school.