‘How long could you go missing?’ Beaufort Co. teacher’s aide under investigation, police say

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Two months before she went missing in May, a 17-year-old Beaufort High School student had reported to police that a teacher’s aide at her school made harassing statements, asked the girl how long she could disappear and whether anybody would come looking for her, according to Beaufort Police and Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office reports.

The aide, Alexander Smalls, a behavior management specialist at Beaufort High, has been on paid administrative leave from the district since March 8 while Beaufort Police investigate the allegations, district spokesman Jim Foster said.

The student was found unharmed two days after her mother reported her missing from her Sheldon home.

During the search, law enforcement officers visited the teacher’s aide at his Beaufort home to ask whether he had seen the student. There was no indication that Smalls was involved in her disappearance in any way, according to a sheriff’s office report.

In a written statement to police, the student told police on March 8 that Smalls had made several comments that she found disturbing, including:

  • “How long could you go missing for?”
  • “Is there anyone who would come looking for you?”
  • “I’d love to cruise around with you one day,” after showing the student pictures of his car and smiling.
  • “I’d probably mess with your mind, the things I’d be capable of doing.”
  • “Since you’ve been here, I knew there was something about you.”
  • “I don’t normally have this kind of conversation with students but I just can’t help it.”

The student also said in her statement that Smalls told her he’d “have to be careful” talking to her, because he thought she was mature but might say something. She also said he told her “he’d deny having any kind of conversation like that.”

Smalls has been employed as a teacher’s aide in the district since 2001. He has not been charged, according to Beaufort Police Investigator Stephanie Karafa.

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Rachel Jones covers education for the Island Packet and the Beaufort Gazette. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has worked for the Daily Tar Heel and Charlotte Observer. Rachel grew up in Ayden, NC, surrounded by teachers.