BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) — The South Carolina Board of Education has suspended a former Berkley County School District (BCSD) teacher’s certificate of education after she was accused of inappropriately hugging a student.
According to the order of suspension, published Tuesday, Dorothy Van Der Sterre Smith was a teacher at Timberland High School in December 2019 when the incident took place.
A staff member at the school “reported seeing Ms. Smith hugging a male student with her legs wrapped around the student’s waist.” Smith said that the student was an athlete and she “felt he was joking by picking her up to show off his strength.”
Smith said that she hugged her students often and “intended to form an emotional link” with them, but conceded that “she may have made herself too approachable and available to them.”
Smith left the district in 2019 and has not worked as a certified educator since.
The board voted to suspend Smith’s license for a period of one year, retroactively beginning on June 30, 2021. She will also be required to complete a National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) Prevention and Correction Course before she is eligible for reinstatement.