Education

Beaufort Co. teacher had sex with 2 students after Googling whether she could, report says

2 Beaufort County employees arrested after incident involving students, police say

Two Beaufort County School District employees — a teacher and a media assistant — were arrested Monday after an incident that happened at a Lady's Island residence last week, police say. Here's what they were charged with.
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Two Beaufort County School District employees — a teacher and a media assistant — were arrested Monday after an incident that happened at a Lady's Island residence last week, police say. Here's what they were charged with.

A Battery Creek High School teacher who allegedly had sex with two students over spring break previously had told co-workers she had a crush on one of the boys and joked about “hooking up with him,” according to a recently released report from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

Brittney Whetzel, 28, told friends she could not wait for the boy to graduate so that on “June 3rd” she could do whatever she wanted, including have “beautiful babies” with him, the 147-page report said.

Witnesses say Whetzel did not wait until graduation.

Five days before hosting an alcohol-fueled party at her home, she asked the student to watch her cat while she was on vacation.

Two days before the party, Whetzel searched on Google variations of the question “Can teachers get in trouble for sleeping with former students?,” according to records deputies later found on her cellphone.

Then, on the night of April 9, Whetzel invited the boy to her Lady’s Island home so he could return her house key.

The student was one of four boys from Battery Creek and Beaufort High School who went to Whetzel’s house that night and one of three students that Whetzel and Battery Creek High media assistant Akina Andrews are accused of plying with beer, wine and tequila.

A day after the party, a third Battery Creek teacher — who was part of a group text in which Whetzel appears to brag about her conquests that night — reported the incident to the school’s assistant principal.

Whetzel was arrested April 16 and charged with with two felony counts of sexual battery and three misdemeanor counts of transfer of beer or wine for an underage person’s consumption between April 9 and April 10. She was released from jail the following morning on a $10,000 surety bond.

Both students Whetzel is accused of having sex with that night were 18 or older, but under South Carolina law, it is illegal for teachers to have sexual contact with their students, even if the students are above the age of consent.

Andrews, 23, of Laurel Bay, turned herself in to investigators on April 16 and was charged with three misdemeanor counts of providing alcohol to minors at the same party.

Andrews began working for the district in August 2017. She was put on paid administrative leave April 11, and her employment with the district ended April 27, school spokesman Jim Foster wrote at the time. She did not resign.

Whetzel, who taught English at Battery Creek, joined the district in the 2016-17 school year. District officials placed her on paid administrative leave April 12 and she resigned April 23, Foster wrote in an email at the time.

The S.C. Department of Education summarily suspended Whetzel’s teaching certificate on April 24, according to a disciplinary action report filed by the agency.

“Due to the serious nature of this allegation to misconduct, Ms. Whetzel may pose a threat to the health, safety and welfare of students who may be under her instruction, and that emergency action is required,” the state education department’s report said.

‘The text stream seems to indicate a growing flirtation’

The incident on April 9 originated when Whetzel texted one of her students and asked him to take care of her cats while she visited her family’s home in Maryland, according to the report from the Sheriff’s Office.

The student agreed and picked up a key from her on April 4.

Whetzel left town on April 7 and, while gone, sent multiple texts to the student.

“The communication was not student-teacher type communication; rather, the text stream seems to indicate a growing flirtation,” a deputy wrote in the report.

Whetzel told deputies that she recently had gone through a bad breakup. Instead of burdening her family, she decided to return to Lady’s Island earlier than expected.

Sometime before the evening of April 9, Whetzel returned, and that night went out for dinner with Andrews. The two picked up wine afterward and went to Whetzel’s house.

Whetzel then texted the student who had been feeding her cat and asked him to return her key, the report said.

The student arrived at Whetzel’s house at about 9 p.m. and brought two friends with him — one from Battery Creek and one from Beaufort High.

Whetzel, who along with Andrews was drinking wine, invited the three students to stay, the report said.

The students and the two Beaufort County Schools employees sat at the kitchen table talking and drinking beer, wine and tequila, according to multiple interviews conducted by investigators.

The Beaufort High student who drove the two Battery Creek students to Whetzel’s home told deputies he spent about an hour or two there before leaving to bring his mother’s car back.

The other two students decided to stay.

Shortly after the third student left, at about 11 p.m., Andrews left to pick up more alcohol for the group.

During that time, Whetzel took one of the students into her bedroom and allegedly had sex with him, according to multiple interviews conducted by investigators.

Shortly after the pair came out of the bedroom, Andrews returned with more beer — and another Battery Creek student, according to the report.

Andrews told deputies she had invited the additional student because she “wanted a witness” to what was happening at Whetzel’s and she wasn’t sure if she ”should tell or not.”

During this time, the group continued to consume more alcohol, and Whetzel allegedly had sex with the first two students who were at the house, according to multiple interviews conducted by deputies.

At one point, Andrews allegedly walked in on Whetzel with the two students, who were lying in her bed naked. According to one of the students’ accounts, Andrews did not say anything and instead turned and walked out of the room.

One of the students told deputies that he saw Andrews kissing a student at the party. He stated that Andrews and the student “were in another bedroom and he could see Andrews sitting on the student’s lap,” the report said.

The student who allegedly witnessed the act told deputies that he could not tell if Andrews and the student had clothes on or whether anything sexual had happened between them.

Both Andrews and that student denied that any sexual activity happened between the two.

Andrews was not charged with sexual battery of any kind.

Bob Bromage, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office, said Monday the alleged activity was unsubstantiated and the threshold for probable cause had not been met.

Andrews left the party shortly after midnight with the student whom she had invited over as a “witness” and drove him home, according to the report.

The two Battery Creek students who had arrived at the start of the night stayed at Whetzel’s house — one spent the night in Whetzel’s bed, and the other slept on her couch, the report said.

After waking up in the morning, Whetzel drove the two students home, according to the report.

One of the two students told deputies that Whetzel never threatened him but did tell him not to tell anyone what had happened, the report said.

‘I feel like somebody’s trying to, like, get me in big trouble’

Whetzel was interviewed by deputies on three occasions following the party.

During the first interview on April 10, Whetzel stated she had only had one to two glasses of wine that night. She denied that the students had any alcohol and was adamant that the students left her home after being there for approximately 30 minutes.

She denied that the students had spent the night or that she had sex with any of them.

“I feel like somebody’s trying to, like, get me in big trouble and I did not do anything … I am mad that I really even asked him to watch my cats,” she told deputies. “... I would never do that to a child.”

Interviews with the students, however, contradicted Whetzel’s account, so deputies went to her home to speak with her again.

By the second interview, Whetzel admitted that two of the students had spent the night and that she had driven them home the next morning.

During this interview, she claimed a combination of alcohol and a new medication had caused her to forget parts of her day.

She stated that it was possible “she did all that stuff” and that she did not remember, the report said.

Then she asked deputies, “What if I did have sex with (one of the students)? What’s going to happen to me?” the report said.

By the end of the second interview, when asked if she had had sex with the students, she told deputies “I probably did.”

On April 11, deputies obtained a search warrant for Whetzel’s home.

The report from the Sheriff’s Office indicates deputies collected dozens of pieces of evidence, including clothing, bedding and DNA samples from the parties involved.

While duties searched the home, Whetzel was interviewed for a third time.

At that point, Whetzel told deputies she wanted to “avoid everything, didn’t want to talk about it and thought it was a bad dream she would wake up from,” the report said.

“During the follow-up interviews Whetzel admits to her false statements as to some of the events that actually occurred, but appeared to convince herself that the alcohol and (medication) had an effect on her memory regarding whether or not she engaged in sex with the two students and if the students drank alcohol while in her house,” the report said.

While the report does not say whether Whetzel had previous sexual encounters with the students, she did admit to deputies that she had joked about the prospect prior to that night.

“Ms. Andrews and I would tease that after they graduate, no one would get in trouble for doing anything,” she told deputies.

A third Battery Creek teacher, the one who reported Whetzel to the school, told deputies that in the past, Whetzel would make comments about how handsome one of the students was and that maybe one day they would make “beautiful babies.”

Although Whetzel never outright told deputies that she had had sex with the students the night of April 9, subsequent interviews and text messages from witnesses indicated that she had.

The teacher who reported the incident showed deputies the group chat that she still had on her phone between her, Whetzel and Andrews.

A little before midnight on April 9, Whetzel had texted that teacher and Andrews, saying, “I can’t control myself.”

Two hours later, according to the text messages, Whetzel had texted the group bragging about having sex with one of the students.

The teacher who reported the incident told deputies that she did not believe that Whetzel had had sex with a student at first because it was “Whetzel’s nature to play pranks on people.”

But the following morning, she realized it wasn’t a joke.

The teacher then told deputies that she had FaceTimed with Whetzel the day after the party. Whetzel stated she was serious about sleeping with the students and said she “would do it every day,” the teacher told deputies.

According to that teacher, Whetzel did not seem to have any remorse about what had occurred and described Whetzel’s demeanor on FaceTime as “goofy, laughing and giddy,” the report said.

Andrews also informed deputies that when she returned from her beer run the night of the party, Whetzel had admitted that she had just had sex with one of the students, according to the sheriff’s report.

Andrews went over to Whetzel’s house the following afternoon to see how Whetzel was doing and described to deputies Whetzel’s reaction to the events as seeming like “she didn’t feel bad.”

She informed deputies Whetzel was coherent and recalled having sex with the students.

Andrews is scheduled for a court date with the Beaufort magistrate on Wednesday. There is no upcoming court date scheduled for Whetzel at this time.

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