- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2007

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Some South Carolina lawmakers say an investigation at Ware Shoals High School involving students, a cheerleading coach and two National Guardsmen should prompt the legislature to consider changing the age at which teenagers can legally consent to sex.

A South Carolina National Guardsman and a former cheerleading coach each had sex with students, according to Greenwood County sheriff’s reports. The adults do not face sex charges because the students were at least 16, old enough to consent in South Carolina.

“We should certainly change that to 18,” said state House Speaker Bobby Harrell, a Republican from Charleston. “The fact that a 16-year-old can consent is not something I was aware of until this occurred. I suspect a lot of members of the legislature and citizens of South Carolina did not know.”

State Rep. Anne Parks said she thought teens couldn’t consent legally until they turned 18. “I was very surprised,” the Greenwood Democrat said. “I still consider 16 to be a minor.”

Former cheerleading coach Jill Moore, 28, is charged with supplying alcohol and cigarettes to students numerous times and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She resigned earlier this month.

Mrs. Moore was having an affair with Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Fletcher, 29, a recruiter she met at the school, and took two cheerleaders with her to meet him, according to the reports. Another guardsman, Sgt. Jeremy Pileggi, 21, began a sexual relationship with one of the cheerleaders last year, the reports said.

The reports also accuse Mrs. Moore of having sex with a male student at the school. Mrs. Moore, a married mother of two, maintains her innocence.

State Rep. Gloria Haskins said lawmakers should revisit the age of consent. “Sometimes it takes an incident like this to bring up a debate,” the Greenville Republican said.

Last year, South Carolina lawmakers lowered the age of consent to 14 in some cases, in an amendment to a bill strengthening penalties against child sex offenders. The so-called “Romeo” clause exempted men 18 and younger who have consensual sex with 14- and 15-year-old girls.

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