High school guidance counselor charged with criminal sexual cond - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

High school guidance counselor charged with criminal sexual conduct

Gerald Baxter | Source: J. Reuben Long Detention Center Gerald Baxter | Source: J. Reuben Long Detention Center

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A St. James High guidance counselor has been arrested for a criminal sexual conduct charge.

Gerald Baxter, 61, was charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor, according to jail records. Baxter sat solemnly in his bond hearing Wednesday afternoon as a judge explained his rights.

A close acquaintance of Baxter told police the 4-year-old victim claimed Baxter touched her inappropriately.

A sexual assault exam was conducted at a hospital. The results were negative, according to the police report.

Baxter was placed on administrative leave with pay on November 4, said Horry County Schools District Spokeswoman Teal Harding. The counselor was placed on leave after the district was made aware of pending charges through a police investigation, Harding said.

Baxter has worked three years at SJHS and was formerly employed at Wilson High, in Florence County. A background check was conducted before hiring Baxter, the district confirmed.

Parents at Timberlake Baptist Church, less than a mile down the road from St. James High School, said parents need to listen and talk to their children.

"There are children that may tell stories, but you as the parent know your child better than anybody else, so if your child is telling you story that seems a little far-fetched, you need to investigate,” said Connie Bomgardner, a retired educator and church member.

Parents should also pay close attention to the signs that something is wrong. Bomgardner adds, warning signs include when “they're extremely quiet, don't make friends easily, a lot of crying - you need to be aware of those things, and find out why the child is behaving that way.”

“Most of the time, a child of the age of four, five, I would say to ten, they're not going to make those stories up, if someone is touching them inappropriately they're going to come out and tell you," said Bomgardner.

Another parent of the congregation said protecting children from predators also means being straightforward with them and monitoring who is around them and you.

Van Nerdahl, a parent, said, “You have to be cognizant that this crime can happen anywhere, and it's prevalent today, so you have to know who your children associate with.”

The Magistrate Judge for Baxter's hearing could not set a bond for him due to the severity of the charge. His next court date is scheduled for January 16, where he will go before a circuit court judge.

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