A Sumter County teacher accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old student said in a statement Thursday the allegations came out after she disciplined her students.
In a statement released by her attorney Rose Mary Parham, 31-year-old Elizabeth Moss said "These allegations arose after Beth disciplined some of her students at school. She is innocent of all charges and looks forward to her day in court."
Deputies arrested Moss and charged her with second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor Wednesday. She turned herself in around 6:30 p.m. at the sheriff's office.
Sheriff's investigators said Moss, the honors chorus director and music teacher at Chestnut Oaks Middle School, sent inappropriate messages to some of her students on Facebook.
Investigators went further and said they discovered she had a liaison with a student at her residence between March and April 2013.
According to investigators, Moss is married to another school district employee and has three children, ages 3, 5, and 12. Her spouse, according to the sheriff's office, has not indicated there is a reason to believe she has sexually assaulted any of her children, but investigators have not ruled out the possibility.
Deputies executed a search warrant at her home and seized several items they deemed necessary to the case.
"It's a shame that we have crimes like this committed in our communities," said Major Allen Dailey. "This is outrageous, and we have to get to the bottom of it."
The investigation is ongoing and investigators believe there may be more victims.
Senior Investigator Darlene Dellinger said new leads have been coming into the sheriff's office since Monday.
"Every day leads us to another possible victim or witness," said Dellinger.
Dellinger said Thursday morning she had at least four pending interviews with possible witnesses or victims. "The students have been very forthcoming," said Dellinger. "They realize the seriousness of the crime."
Investigators said parents should believe students who may raise concerns and be honest with students about what happened.
"When they talk to you about something, believe them," said Dellinger. "Talk to your school district employees, your principal, guidance counselors. We have SROs in the schools and available at the sheriff's office. Just pay attention. Check their Facebook pages."
According to Dellinger, the investigation so far indicates Moss' actions are those of a sexual predator.
"It is a little enlightening to see this classic predator behavior in this case," said Dellinger. "It's been almost textbook. It's called grooming. The offering of gifts, being overly concerned about the student's well-being or behavior, a student's lifestyle. It's almost like they take on a childlike demeanor themselves."
Moss used social media to earn the student's trust, according to Dellinger.
"Facebook has been served legal process in this case and they have been very cooperative up to this point," Dellinger said.
Authorities said the Sumter School District has been very helpful with the investigation.
A statement from the district said Moss has been since placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
"Elizabeth Moss was placed on administrative leave on Tuesday, February 11 pending the outcome of law enforcement's investigation," said district spokesperson Shelly Galloway. "She was hired by Sumter School District on January 6, 2013 as the chorus director at Chestnut Oaks Middle School. Once we learned inappropriate behavior allegedly took place between a staff member and a student, we notified law enforcement immediately, and she was placed on administrative leave. The principal and superintendent met with the Chestnut Oaks faculty early Thursday morning. Counselors are available to assist any student who may be having difficulties with this situation, and a letter will be sent home to parents this afternoon."
"Sumter School District does not tolerate this type of behavior," the statement goes on to say. "All employees are expected to exercise good judgment and maintain professional boundaries when interacting with students at all times, both on and off school property. This includes any action or conduct communicated or carried out in person, in writing and/or electronically through such means as telephone, email, text messages, instant messaging or social networking sites."
Moss is being held at the Sumter-Lee Detention Center awaiting a bond hearing.
If you feel your child may be a victim of Moss', you are urged to call the Sumter County Sheriff's Office at 803-436-2000.
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