Crime & Courts

Fired assistant principal told student’s mom she was in love with him, documents show

Watch Airport High admin, fired after sex charge, leaves jail after release

Former Airport High School assistant principal Dawn Diimmler walks out of Lexington County Detention Center.
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Former Airport High School assistant principal Dawn Diimmler walks out of Lexington County Detention Center.

A former Airport High School assistant principal admitted having an inappropriate relationship with a student, apologized to his mother for the relationship but also said she was in love with him, according to documents released Monday morning from the Cayce-West Columbia school district.

Dawn Diimmler, 44, faces two charges of sexual battery with a student – one each with the Columbia Police Department and the Cayce Department of Public Safety – on allegations that she engaged in a relationship with an Airport High School student while she was the school’s assistant principal. She faces up to five years in prison on each of the felony charges, if convicted.

The student was 19 at the time. It’s a crime in South Carolina for a K-12 teacher or school administrator to have sex with a student enrolled at the school regardless of the student’s age.

The State on Feb. 14 requested a copy of Diimmler’s personnel file from Lexington School District Two under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. The district provided certain documents from the file on Monday.

In a Jan. 25 letter telling Diimmler she was on administrative leave, superintendent William James Jr. told the now-former assistant principal that the district was investigating “the nature of your interactions with several current and former students” at Airport High School. He instructed Diimmler not to contact former or current students or their parents, and also told her not to talk with any Airport High staff members to discuss the matter.

In a second letter on Jan. 31 that informed Diimmler of the board’s recommendation to terminate her, James wrote that he had received additional information about Diimmler’s alleged conduct, including recordings of voicemail messages she left on the phone belonging to the student’s mother the night of Jan. 29, after the superintendent’s instruction not to contact students or their families.

“I have listened to those recordings, in which you admit to (the student’s mother) that you are in love with her son, and in which you apologize to (her) for your inappropriate relationship with him,” the letter states.

During a Monday hearing in Lexington County bond court, Diimmler’s attorney said she is married with three children, ages 7, 9 and 11.

“She has always had glowing performance reviews,” said the attorney, Debbie Barbier. “She has abundant support of family and friends.”

At the hearing, Magistrate Brian Buck set a personal recognizance bond for Diimmler at $30,000.

School district officials reviewed information from Diimmler’s district-issued cellphone and district email, which corroborated her admission to an inappropriate relationship, according to the documents. James, who also requested Diimmler’s personal cellphone records going back to August 2016, told Diimmler he would not accept her resignation but instead would recommend her termination.

“Specifically, your conduct, in having an inappropriate relationship with a student, lying about that relationship to me, and contacting [redacted] despite my directive that you not do so, manifests an evident unfitness for teaching, justifying your termination,” he wrote.

Cayce police have said Diimmler twice had sex with the student at the school. On April 28, 2017, she had sex with the student in a room she rented at a hotel in the Harbison area, according to an incident report provided by the Columbia Police Department.

Judge Brian Buck holds a bond hearing for fired Airport High assistant principal Dawn Diimmler. Court rules forbid recording audio and video of the offender.

Diimmler was fired by the Lexington School District Two board Feb. 12, hours after the district announced she and Airport High School principal Brad Coleman were placed on administrative leave.

She waived her right to to be heard by the board before board members made their decision, according to a letter sent from James to Diimmler on Feb. 13.

The school district did not provide any complaints or employment reviews related to Diimmler’s time with the district, citing a provision of the state’s Freedom of Information Act that says agencies may decline to produce “information of a personal nature where the public disclosure thereof would constitute unreasonable invasion of personal privacy.”

Diimmler’s firing came after an investigation into allegations that she was involved in an “unprofessional relationship with a student.” During that investigation, the district uncovered information that indicated possible criminal activity and notified Cayce police on Jan. 30, officials have said.

Coleman, who remains principal at Airport High School but is on administrative leave, has no disciplinary actions in his personnel file, district spokeswoman Dawn Kujawa said in a letter to The State. District officials have not released details about why Coleman is on administrative leave.

Diimmler graduated from the College of Charleston in 1995 and received her master’s at the University of South Carolina in 2003, according to a copy of her resume, which was provided by the school district. She was assistant principal of Pine Ridge Middle School from 2012 to 2016, when she moved to Airport.

Prior to joining Lexington School District Two, she taught with the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice’s Birchwood High School and then spent a decade in Lexington-Richland School District 5, teaching at River Springs Elementary School, Leaphart Elementary and Irmo Middle.

Here are five facts about Airport High School, located in West Columbia, South Carolina.

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