Crime & Courts

Assistant principal, hall monitor face kidnapping charges

HILTON HEAD ISLAND -- A Bluffton High School assistant principal and a hall monitor have been charged with kidnapping after they allegedly helped a 15-year-old student run away from home, according to the Bluffton Police Department.

Assistant principal Cecilia Griswold and hall monitor Lovelle McDonald put the boy on a Greyhound bus bound for his mother's home in New York on Jan. 7 after he told Griswold he was being abused by his father, police said.

Griswold didn't report the alleged abuse to police as she was required to do, said Bluffton Police Lt. Bryan Norberg, the spokesman for the police department.

Instead, Griswold and McDonald obtained money from the boy's mother to cover the fare for the boy's bus trip to New York. It wasn't immediately clear Monday how the money was sent by the mother. But once Griswold and McDonald had it, they arranged for the boy to be driven to the bus station in Beaufort, where he bought a ticket and boarded a bus, according to a release from the police department.

The student, who is not being identified because of his age, stayed in New York for two weeks before his mother sent him back home on a bus.

The boy is now at home with his father, who has custody of him, according to Bluffton Police Lt. Angela Tubbs.

Police checked out the boy's claims of abuse but found no signs of it, Norberg said.

Police began their investigation of the case Friday after the boy's father contacted school administrators, who immediately notified law enforcement authorities, the release said. The student initially refused to tell his father how he was able to make the trip or who helped him. Then on Friday, he told his father the details, the release said.

Other school administrators were unaware that the two women helped the student run away, the release said.

Randy Wall, spokesman for the Beaufort County School District, said it is district policy to turn over any allegations or suspicions of abuse to police immediately.

Wall said Griswold was placed on paid administrative leave pending resolution of the charges, and McDonald, the hall monitor, is on unpaid leave. He declined to comment on any details of the investigation but said school officials were working with police.

A hall monitor is a paid employee who assists administrators with safety duties and makes sure students are in class, among other things, Wall said.

Bluffton High School Principal Bob Anderson could not be reached for comment Monday.

Griswold, who turned herself in Monday, was in the Beaufort County Detention Center on Monday evening awaiting a bond hearing scheduled for today, the jail log said. She is charged with kidnapping, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and failure to report claims of abuse.

McDonald turned herself in to authorities Sunday and was charged with kidnapping and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She was released Sunday from the jail on a $50,000 bond.

It was unclear why the boy's mother sent him back to Bluffton from New York or whether the mother has any connection to Griswold and McDonald.

-- The (Hilton Head) Island Packet