Dreher High School teacher arrested on sex with student charge

She is suspended with pay while district investigates allegations

nophillips@thestate.comJanuary 4, 2013 

  • Know something? The Columbia Police Department asks that if anyone has additional information about the case or believes to be a victim should call (803) 545-3500.

— A Dreher High School English honors teacher has been charged with sexual battery, after she allegedly had sex with a student in his home.

Kinsley Wentzky, 34, of Forest Acres, was arrested Friday on a charge of sexual battery with a student 16 or 17 years of age with no aggravated force or coercion, the Columbia Police Department reported in a news release. She was released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond. She faces a maximum of five years in prison.

The sexual battery charge specifically addresses relationships between students and teachers, but it does not mean physical violence was involved.

Wentzky has admitted to having sex with the student in a statement to Forest Acres Police, according to the Columbia arrest warrant. The student also has given a sworn statement detailing the “intimate interaction,” the warrant said.

Wentzky also is under investigation by the Forest Acres department, said Lt. Bryant Hinson, a department spokesman, declining to offer details of the investigation.

Interim Columbia police chief Ruben Santiago said Wentzky allegedly had sex with the student in his Sherwood Forest neighborhood home in Columbia on multiple occasions. The alleged relationship lasted for several months, but police are still investigating exactly how long it had been going on, Santiago said.

Richland 1 learned of the alleged relationship Dec. 27, when the student’s parents called Dreher High School principal Jeanne Stiglbauer, district spokeswoman Karen York said. The principal called the Richland 1 superintendent, who called law enforcement.

Columbia police got involved when Forest Acres called about the findings in their investigation, Santiago said. Columbia police are continuing to investigate the allegations, he said.

Wentzky was placed on administrative leave with pay Wednesday, York said. That same day, the school district notified the S.C. Department of Education of the allegations. She will remain on leave pending an investigation by the district, York said.

Wentzky teaches honors English at Dreher, where she has been on the faculty for seven years, according to a page on the school’s web site, which was removed shortly after the charges became public. She has been an educator for 10 years. She is married to Charlie Wentzky, the A.C. Flora High School athletic director, and they have two young children, the school’s web site page said.

Wentzky graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s in English in 2000 from Clemson University, said John Gouch, a university spokesman. At Clemson, Wentzky was in Alpha Delta Pi sorority and danced with the Rally Cats, a team that performs at football and basketball games, according to her MySpace page.

Wentzky also received a master’s degree in speech language pathology from USC, according to Dreher’s web site. She graduated from Westside High School in Anderson.

Word of the relationship and the pending arrest began circulating Thursday among the Dreher school community. Students started posting comments on social media web sites, with several celebrating the victim’s relationship with the teacher.

But sexual abuse experts warn that the relationship is not something to be celebrated or praised.

A sexual relationship between a teacher and a student no matter their genders is abuse, said Pamela Jacobs, executive director of the S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

Children are inexperienced and easily can be manipulated by people in authority, Jacobs said.

“As a teacher, you are in a position of authority,” Jacobs said. “There’s no way it was an equal relationship.”

South Carolina law specifically addresses relationships between teachers and students.

In South Carolina, the age of consent is 16. But the sexual battery with a student charge covers sexual relationships with students who are 16 and 17. Battery is a legal term that essentially deals with a person’s right to have their bodies left alone by others.

Those who cheer on a young man having sex with a teacher are misguided, Jacobs said. Sexual abuse from a trusted person can be every bit as traumatic as an attack committed by a stranger, Jacobs said.

No one knows what the ramifications will be for the Dreher student but those types of relationships often are damaging, Jacobs said.

“They have to figure out what it means to be treated with respect by a person with authority,” she said.

Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.

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