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Former SC coach with prior assault conviction accused of shoving, slapping a student

Jacob Lee Stewart
Jacob Lee Stewart Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School website

A former South Carolina coach who was convicted of assaulting a student and lost his teaching license more than a decade ago is now accused of slapping and punching a student at another school, according to law enforcement records.

Jacob Lee Stewart Jr., 59, of Swansea, is charged with third-degree assault and battery, according to an arrest affidavit provided by the Bamberg Police Department.

The alleged assault happened Dec. 19 at Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School, about 60 miles south of Columbia, according to the affidavit. Police wrote that Stewart shoved the juvenile against the wall, slapped him in the head and punched him in the chest, and that the incident was captured on surveillance video.

The 10th-grade student is a member of the school’s wrestling team, of which Stewart was the coach, according to The Times & Democrat of Orangeburg. Stewart submitted his resignation to the school district on Jan. 7, the newspaper reported. He remains listed on the school’s website as a social studies teacher.

“The District values the safety and well-being of all students,” Bamberg School District One Superintendent Phyllis Schwarting said in a statement. “We regret that this incident happened and wish only the best for the student and his family moving forward. We also want to assure our students and their parents that this employee did not return to work after the incident occurred.”

A message left with Stewart’s attorney was not immediately returned last week.

Incident caught on video

Four days after Stewart submitted his resignation, on Jan. 11, the school’s principal and vice principal asked the Bamberg Police Department to complete an incident report, which details the 45-second video. A copy of the report was provided to The State by the police department.

The video shows the student exiting the gym with Stewart following him, according to the report. When the student turns around in the hallway, Stewart grabs him by the collar of his shirt and “slams him against a brick wall,” the report states.

After talking with the student, Stewart then slaps the student with his left hand and pushes the student’s hand, which was clenched around a pair of headphones, police wrote. Stewart reportedly pushed that hand to the student’s chest, telling him to “put them up.”

Stewart is heard minutes later asking the student if the headphones are broken and how much they cost, according to the report. They are last seen on video walking into the gym.

Previous arrest and conviction

Stewart has been arrested previously in connection with an assault on a student, according to law enforcement records.

Berkeley County sheriff’s deputies charged Stewart with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature in October 2001, according to a State Law Enforcement Division records check.

He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of simple assault and battery, according to Berkeley County online court records. A judge sentenced him to 30 days in jail suspended to six months probation, court records show.

Stewart’s teaching certificate was invalidated in July 2002, according to documents provided by the S.C. Department of Education.

An order of summary suspension states that, in addition to the aggravated assault charge, Stewart also was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice “based on allegations that he committed an act of violence towards a student and later attempted to intimidate witnesses into recanting their stories,” according to the order of summary suspension.

Stewart assaulted the student at the student’s home and tried to bribe the student and his mother into recanting their initial report of the altercation, according to the consent order of voluntary surrender provided by the department.

In exchange for Stewart pleading guilty to the assault charge, prosecutors dismissed the remaining charges against him, according to a court document provided by the Department of Education. He consented to the surrender of his teaching certificate and would have the right to reapply for certification after a three-year period.

Stewart’s teaching certification was reinstated in August 2006, according to a notification of reinstatement provided by the Department of Education.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year. According to Purva Grover, M.D., a pediatric eme

Background checks didn’t raise concerns

Bamberg School District One conducted all necessary and required background checks on Stewart before his hire in 2012, and the checks did not raise any concerns, Schwarting said in the release.

Stewart was placed on administrative leave Dec. 20, the day after incident, Schwarting said. He submitted his resignation the day school resumed after winter break.

A Department of Education spokesman said schools have access to a portal that contains information about a teacher’s certification and prior incidents involving students. It was not clear if this was part of the Bamberg school district’s background check before Stewart’s hiring.

Stewart faces up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine or both if convicted on the misdemeanor assault charge.

Teddy Kulmala covers breaking news for The State and covered crime and courts for seven years in Columbia, Rock Hill, Aiken and Lumberton, N.C. He graduated from Clemson University and grew up in Barnwell County.