District’s social media policy questioned following NC teacher’s sex trafficking arrest

Some parents in Pender County are questioning the school system’s social media policies following the arrest of a Topsail High School track coach.

Ahmad Garrison, 27, of Holly Ridge, was charged Wednesday with four additional counts of sexual activity with a student. According to the Pender County Sheriff’s Office, the new charges involve a different alleged victim than the one mentioned when Garrison was first arrested.

Authorities say the parents of the student found inappropriate social media messages between their daughter and Garrison.

The charges left some parents in Pender County concerned about what the school system is doing to protect students.

“It angers me and it upsets me,” said LaCretia Munn, a parent of three daughters in the Pender County School System. “It makes me kind of scared for the safety of my kids.”

Pender County Schools has a social media policy that prevents teachers from communicating with students on personal social media pages. Teachers are required to sign a form saying they will follow the policy and are trained on it each August. School officials say the policy seems to prevent most issues.

“We haven’t had any major problems to a significant extent,” said school board attorney Richard Schwartz. “Occasionally we will have some concerns from time to time, and often it’s a matter of just calling the employee’s attention to the policy.”

Parents like Munn aren’t so sure of the policy’s effectiveness. They want to see better enforcement.

“Enforce the policy,” Munn said. “If you’re going to put a policy in place, then check it thoroughly and enforce it.”

According to Schwartz, Pender County Schools does not monitor an employee’s personal social media accounts. They rely on tips to begin any investigation into a teacher’s personal social media. However, school officials do monitor the use of school system technology and accounts.

Similar policies are in effect in Brunswick County and New Hanover County Schools.

Munn believes the school should look at the policy after the incident involving Garrison.

“He thought he could get away with it,” Munn said. “If he thought he could get away with it, then just think about how many other adults working in the school systems that are around our children, driving the bus or whatever it may be, that are also having those same thoughts.”

Schwartz said the school system is fully cooperating with the Pender County Sheriff’s Office regarding the investigation into Garrison. He also said they wouldn’t look at changing the policy until the investigation is over.