Battery Creek school psychologist charged with sexual battery of student, placed on leave

rlurye@islandpacket.comDecember 20, 2013 

Megan Michelle Snipes

A Battery Creek High School psychologist was arrested Friday, accused of engaging in a sexual act with a student, according to a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office news release.

Megan Michelle Snipes, 28, was charged with sexual battery of a student, the release said. The Beaufort County School District has placed Snipes on administrative leave pending an internal investigation, district spokesman Jim Foster said.

Snipes' arrest was the second in less than two weeks involving a district employee accused of inappropriate behavior with a student. A long-term substitute at Hilton Head Island High School facing similar charges is no longer working for the school district after her arrest earlier this month.

Snipes' arrest came after the mother of the 16-year-old male student contacted the Sheriff's Office early Thursday to report that she had discovered sexually oriented communication between her son and Snips on her phone. The woman's son had been seeing the school psychologist regularly.

Deputies questioned Snipes and the student and confirmed that they engaged in a sexual act Oct. 18 near Bob Jones Field on Jones Avenue in Beaufort, according to the Sheriff's Office. Snipes did not coerce the student, according to the release.

While the legal age of consent in South Carolina is 16, a state law says that sexual acts between a student and teacher -- regardless of age -- cannot be consensual.

Sheriff's Office Capt. Bob Bromage would not say what the sexual act entailed, but said it met the criteria for the charge. According to the statute, "sexual battery" can include various sex acts.

Attempts to reach Sheriff P.J. Tanner were unsuccessful.

Snipes was in the Beaufort County Detention Center on Friday afternoon awaiting a bond hearing.

She was hired by the district in August 2011 and has worked as a psychologist at four schools: Port Royal Elementary School, Okatie Elementary School, Beaufort Middle School and Battery Creek High School, according to Foster.

She is on administrative leave and continues to be paid her $46,012 salary pending an investigation by the district, Foster said.

She is a certified employee, meaning she has state certification. The superintendent cannot immediately terminate a certified employee, but must instead take a recommendation for termination to the school board "if the situation warrants that kind of action," Foster said.

Superintendent Jeffrey Moss said Friday he would discuss the situation with the school board at its next meeting. He declined to comment further.

The next board meeting is Jan. 7.

Snipes' arrest came less than two weeks after Margaret LaMantia, 23, was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and disseminating harmful material to a minor, according to court records.

LaMantia told deputies she sent a 16-year-old male student an inappropriate picture, kissed him and asked him to buy marijuana for her, according to an incident report.

LaMantia, who is no longer employed by the school district, posted a $25,000 bond Wednesday, according to the jail log.

Anyone with information about Snipes' case is asked to contact either Investigator Sgt. C. Wilson at 843-255-3409, call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC (274-6372) or text the word TIPSC with a message to CRIMES (274637).

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca. Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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