Editorials

Time for district to step up in Hilton Head principal sex-in-school case

Hilton Head students rallied to support Principal O’Nan. Here’s what they had to say

Hilton Head High School students held a rally on Thursday, Jan. 10, to support their principal Amanda O'Nan after she was placed on paid administrative leave while the district investigates a claim that she and a former deputy had sex in the school.
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Hilton Head High School students held a rally on Thursday, Jan. 10, to support their principal Amanda O'Nan after she was placed on paid administrative leave while the district investigates a claim that she and a former deputy had sex in the school.

Hilton Head Island High School principal Amanda O’Nan’s public reprimand by the State Department of Education on Tuesday puts the ball squarely back into the lap of the Beaufort County School District.

Had the state board suspended O’Nan’s license, the district could have shrugged and said, hey, it’s out of our hands. No license, no job. But now that that hasn’t happened, the district must step up. Clearly, it wishes O’Nan and the embarrassing saga attached to her would go away, but the suspended principal is a fighter and Tuesday’s decision can only be seen as a win for her legal team.

What comes next will be a test of the district’s backbone.

And its commitment to the community it serves.

The public has heard too many different stories since allegations first arose in 2016 that the principal had extramarital sex in the school building after hours with an officer of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. The school district has done, or said it has done, two different investigations, one in 2016 and one in 2019. What did it find?

The state has spoken, but the public still needs answers from Beaufort County interim superintendent Herb Berg.

What evidence was found in the O’Nan investigation, and what is it going to do about it?

Did O’Nan lie to the district and to the public when she denied the allegations in 2016? And again in 2018, when it was reported that the deputy involved said in a Sheriff’s Office internal investigation that he had sex in the school with O’Nan? What did the school district determine was the truth? Does truth matter?

There are other questions that still need answers.

  • How thorough was the investigation and who conducted each part?
  • Was the 2016 investigation into O’Nan a sham? Either then-Superintendent Jeff Moss or current human resources and security officials are lying about how that investigation was conducted. What’s the truth, and why did it happen the way it did?
  • If there was deceit or coverup, who all in the inner circle was involved and has their credibility been shattered to the point they can no longer serve in their current roles?

The state concluded that the evidence presented by the district this year would not support suspending or revoking O’Nan’s educator certificate. But it concluded that O’Nan “engaged in unprofessional conduct as a result of inappropriate conduct.”

Now it’s time to hear from our school district.

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