A South Aiken High School teacher accused of having an “ongoing” relationship with a student was released from jail on Thursday and is on administrative leave, authorities said.
Michael Paul Waters, 41, was charged with five counts of sexual battery with a student and placed in the Aiken County detention center on Wednesday afternoon. He was released on Thursday morning on a $25,000 surety bond.
Waters, a teacher and coach at South Aiken, has been placed on paid administrative leave, said Bill Burkhalter, attorney for the Aiken County Public School District. Waters is the boys' soccer coach and an assistant football coach.
“South Carolina law provides any certified employee with a minimum of 15 days pay and notice of an opportunity for a hearing,” Burkhalter said. “... Typically, if something comes up that appears like it could be a serious issue, we put somebody on administrative leave while we investigate it.”
Burkhalter said the move gives the district administration the opportunity to “do its due diligence and investigation.”
“We have not quite completed that at this point in time,” he said on Thursday afternoon.
School officials notified the Aiken Department of Public Safety of the allegations regarding Waters on Dec. 13, said Lt. Jake Mahoney.
“Our juvenile division began an investigation immediately with the full cooperation of the school officials,” he said. “... Investigators with Aiken Public Safety have been in contact with the victim's family throughout this investigation, as well as with school officials.”
Mahoney said the relationship was ongoing and lasted “at least” from Sept. 1 through Dec. 15.
“The investigators determined that the sexual battery occurred both on and off campus,” he said, adding that there was no coercion. “A 16-year-old cannot consent to sex with her school teacher. It's not allowed by law.”
Waters was charged under the S.C. Code of Laws, Section 16-3-755, Section B, which states: “If a person affiliated with a public or private secondary school in an official capacity engages in sexual battery with a student enrolled in the school who is sixteen or seventeen years of age, and aggravated coercion or aggravated force is not used to accomplish the sexual battery, the person affiliated with the public or private secondary school in an official capacity is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned for not more than five years.”
Waters faces up to 25 years in prison, if convicted.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.