Hilton Head principal sex-in-the-school case demands clarity from superintendent

Beaufort County School District interim superintendent Herbert Berg needs to tell the public what is going on with suspended Hilton Head Island High School Principal Amanda O’Nan.

O’Nan was put on paid administrative leave last Tuesday while the district investigates allegations first aired in 2016 that O’Nan had sex with a then-Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office staff sergeant in the school late at night.

Since she was put on leave, the community has been sharply divided. The public needs more information. People are filling the vacuum with ill-informed decisions and hearsay.

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Some are expressing outrage -- not at the allegations against the principal, but that the school district would pry into what they say is her private life.

Students rallied before school one day last week, asking that O’Nan be returned to the school where she has been a high-profile principal for 12 years.

This is not a healthy situation, and it demands public guidance from Berg -- not his subordinates. A “no-comment” is not good enough in this case.

Berg did the right thing by ordering a new investigation, asking the state Department of Education to look into it as well, and removing O’Nan from campus.

Now he needs to step forward and address community questions about what the district is doing and why.

What is the process? Who conducts the investigation? How is that person qualified to handle this high-profile case?

Explain how the procedure protects the principal’s right to due process.

How is this alleged conduct addressed in school district policy, or the principal’s contract?

What happened in the investigation the school district said it conducted in 2016, at which time former Superintendent Jeff Moss’ administration concluded O’Nan had done nothing wrong?

How have other cases involving discipline of principals been handled?

When will the district tell the public what it has determined to be the truth in the case?

In 2016, O’Nan flatly denied it happened. But the former staff sergeant said this past June that he did indeed have sex with O’Nan in the school. That statement by DeJuan Holmes was part of a sheriff’s office internal affairs investigation. In 2016, he resigned rather than undergo the investigation. The investigation had been triggered by a complaint to the sheriff’s office by O’Nan’s then-husband. They have since divorced.

Our concern in light of this new information is O’Nan’s judgment. She said last week that it was a personal matter. It was that, but the affair as outlined by the deputy did not take place on private property, but in a public school building entrusted to her care.

We also are concerned with O’Nan’s truthfulness. The two key parties are now saying two totally different things about what happened between them. We need the truth.

And we are concerned with the message this entire episode sends to students and faculty.

With a new school board, and new superintendent, the public is expecting greater transparency from the school district.

Now is the time to show it is a new day. The community needs it.