Teacher in teen-sex case was a star student at FMU

By Bobby Bryant, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

When Anna Patton was a student at Francis Marion University a few years ago, she was a busy single mom who still managed to land on the President’s List for top grades every semester and still found time for volunteer work.
“It can be overwhelming when I have five or six classes with homework and tests, then volunteer work and then still have that time with (her young son),” Patton told the FMU student newspaper in 2017. “I’m doing all of this for him, and I need to make sure I have a relationship with him.”
Last week, the 22-year-old English teacher at Lamar High School was released from jail on a $7,500 bond after being accused of having an illicit sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student.

Patton, who lives in Florence, apparently had only been teaching at the Darlington County school about six months. She was hired at the school July 7, 2019, according to national news media citing information on Patton’s Facebook page, which appears to have been taken down since the story broke.

Information on Patton’s Facebook page, reports said, indicated she graduated from Francis Marion University in 2019 “after writing her honors thesis on the use of Nazi propaganda in German schools during the Third Reich.”
Patton was vice president of FMU Honors, was a South Carolina Teaching Fellow and was on the board of directors of a charity helping foster families, news reports said, again citing Facebook information.

In arrest warrants issued by the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office Jan. 10 but not publicly announced until Jan. 13, Patton is accused of:
— Sex / sexual battery with a student 16 or 17 years old, but without “aggravated force or coercion.”
–Disseminating harmful material or exhibiting a harmful performance to minors.
— Criminal solicitation of a minor.

The warrants allege that Patton – who, as the student’s teacher, had “direct supervisory authority” over the youth – engaged in sexual intercourse and other sexual acts with the student “multiple” times. The warrants allege these incidents took place “in the Lamar area” between Oct. 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2019. The charges are based on statements from the student, the warrants say.

The warrants also allege that Patton used social media to “disseminate harmful material to a minor” – in this case, “sexually explicit nudity.”
These charges are based on both “evidence” and statements from the youth, the warrants say.

The Darlington County School District issued a statement Jan. 13 saying that Patton “has been placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation,” but the district never identified her by name. “Due to privacy laws, the district cannot discuss personnel matters,” district spokeswoman Audrey Childers said. News media learned the teacher’s name from the arrest warrants.

On Jan. 14, the South Carolina Board of Education suspended Patton’s teaching certificate – her license to teach in S.C. public schools.
In the board’s order, posted on its website, the agency wrote: “The (S.C. Department of Education) has reason to believe that … Ms. Patton may pose a threat to the health, safety and welfare of students who may be under her instruction and that emergency action is required.”
The board’s order says that on Jan. 11, “a concerned parent” contacted the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office to report the alleged relationship between Patton and the student. (The board’s order is the only account that indicates how authorities found out about the relationship – but the board’s account has the citizen calling authorities after the date on the arrest warrants.)

A 2017 feature story in The Patriot, Francis Marion’s student newspaper, described Patton as a single mom – she has a son, Isaac. The story’s headline was “Single mother serves campus, community.”
“There are a lot of statistics about single mothers,” Patton told The Patriot when she was a sophomore at FMU. “One thing that I want Isaac to take away from my whole college experience is that anything is possible. You don’t have to be a statistic.”
The Patriot story said Patton had helped with the Foster Care Clothing Closet (FCCC) in Florence, a nonprofit that provides foster families with clothes and necessities. Patton was elected to the board for the FCCC.
Patton told the Patriot: “I think that really working with them has made the biggest impact because I’ve gotten to see the impact that has come out of that. I got to see kids open up presents that we wrapped and eat the cookies that we baked. I’ve got a big heart for that kind of stuff. That has really kept me going, honestly. I love to make other people happy.”

She told the FMU newspaper that her son “has kept me grounded, and I haven’t gone off the deep end. I’ve been on the President’s List every semester because he’s just given me another reason to try my hardest. I cannot look into his little eyes and tell him I’m not giving my all. I’ve got way too much riding on college to fool around.”

Other stories in the FMU newspaper tell of Patton’s involvement in campus activities. In 2018, The Patriot reported, she helped organize a rally against sexual violence.

Author: Rachel Howell

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