Crime & Courts

Teacher accused of allowing underage drinking at party returns to class

BEAUFORT -- A Beaufort High School teacher was back in the classroom Wednesday after a Beaufort County School District investigation cleared her of suspicion she allowed under-age drinking in her home during a birthday party for her 17-year-old daughter.

Melissa Lewin, who had been on administrative leave for about two weeks, is delighted to be back at school, said her lawyer, Fred Kuhn of Moss, Kuhn and Fleming.

While Kuhn acknowledged several uninvited guests came to the party Jan. 17 and brought beer and at least one bottle of liquor, Kuhn said Lewin did not supply alcohol or allow those guests to drink.

"We thought it was appropriate for her to return to work," said Jacqueline Rosswurm, human resources officer for the district.

Rosswurm refused further comment.

Beaufort High principal Dan Durbin filed a report with the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office last week, after the district finished its investigation.

"Anytime I do any kind of fact-finding, I automatically turn over any results to the police," Durbin said. "That's part of the process."

The incident remains under investigation by the Sheriff's Office. No charges have been filed, and there is no indication Lewin provided alcohol to students or allowed them to drink at the party, according to Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cpl. Robin McIntosh.

The Sheriff's Office is investigating the alleged underage drinking, McIntosh said.

Beaufort High athletics director Jerry Linn confirmed earlier this week several of the school's athletes believed to have consumed alcohol at the party were recommended for counseling. No athletes were suspended or kicked off their teams in connection with the party, Linn added.

According to the Beaufort County School District's Athletic and Extracurricular Activities Guide, any first-time offender who self-reports wrongdoing will not be suspended from activities but be recommended for counseling. In this case, Linn said, all students involved acted according to these guidelines.

"Personally, I think it's good that that clause is in the contract because it makes the parents aware of the issue, so I think the appropriate action was taken with the students," Linn said. "But after we recommended counseling, it's up to the parents and students to go through with it."

Lewin has been teaching in Beaufort County since 1989 and sponsors the National Honor Society at the high school.

-- The Beaufort Gazette