- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2007

CLINTON, S.C. — The arrests of two female teachers on charges of having sex with their male students has brought cries of lingering racism, because both women are white and the students — six in all — are black.

Some of the blacks who make up more than a quarter of Laurens County’s 70,000 residents are upset over the handling of the two cases, particularly the release of the teachers on bail.

“If this had been black teachers, they would not be out of jail right now,” said Corinnie Young, a 49-year-old bookstore employee who is black.

Some blacks say they shudder to think what would have happened if the teachers were black men and the students were white girls.

“I can assure you if it were an African-American male who committed such an offense against a white female, history shows us that the charges, the punishment and the sentencing would be totally different,” said Lonnie Randolph, president of the state National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “The system ain’t blind when the perpetrator is an African-American male or female or when the victim is a white female.”

County prosecutor Jerry Peace said that the teachers are wearing electronic tracking devices and that their release on bail — $125,000 for one, $110,000 for the other — was based not on race, but on the danger to the community and the likelihood that the defendants would flee.

Wendie Schweikert, a 37-year-old married woman who had been teaching elementary school in Laurens for more than a decade, was arrested last year after the mother of an 11-year-old boy accused her of having sex with the boy at school at least twice. Authorities said they found evidence bearing his DNA in her classroom. She is also accused of having sex with him in her car.

Allenna Ward, a 24-year-old minister’s daughter in her second year of teaching, was fired Feb. 28 after she was charged with having sex with at least five boys. Police say Mrs. Ward, who is married, had sex with the boys at the school, at a motel, in a park and behind a restaurant.

Black and white residents alike said they are shocked by the accusations.

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