SC education officials call Fort Mill teacher a ‘threat’ after child porn charge

Eric Hartley
Eric Hartley

Top South Carolina education officials have banned a former Fort Mill teacher charged with child porn from teaching because he could be threat to student safety, a state school board order shows.

S.C. school board chair Del-Gratia Jones signed an emergency order suspending Eric Hartley’s teaching certificate Wednesday after S.C. Department of Education officials told the school board about Hartley’s charges.

“Mr. Hartley may pose a threat to the health, safety, and welfare of students who may be under his instruction,” the order suspending Hartley’s license states.

The emergency action was taken after Hartley, 36, a former Fort Mill High School business teacher, was ordered to remain in jail by a federal judge. Prosecutors said in court Tuesday that Hartley is a danger to children and society.

The charges against Hartley state the porn exchanges happened in 2016 when he was a teacher in Georgetown County, south of Myrtle Beach.

“Mr. Hartley admitted in conversations with his co-conspirator that he fantasized about minors and expressed a desire to engage in the behavior captured in the images,” the school board order states.

Hartley’s teaching certificate will remain suspended indefinitely although he has the right to a hearing later, the order states.

S.C. Education Department Matt Orr spokesperson said the agency could not comment further on the suspension.

Hartley was arrested Feb. 28 by Homeland Security agents at his home in Fort Mill. He resigned his teaching position the same day. Fort Mill school district officials spoke with state education officials that day about the arrest, said Fort Mill school district spokesperson Joe Burke.

State education officials requested Hartley’s personnel file, Burke said.

“It is not unusual for the state to suspend a teaching license in these type of cases,” said Jack Swerling of Columbia, one of Hartley’s lawyers.

Hartley had no criminal record before his Feb. 28 arrest, and he had no disciplinary record in either York County or Georgetown County, Swerling said.

“There has been no allegation by anyone that Eric Hartley had any improper contact with students in Georgetown County or York County,” Swerling said.

Hartley remains in Mecklenburg County jail in Charlotte pending extradition to Virginia, where the federal charges will be prosecuted. He faces five to 20 years in prison if convicted.

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Andrew Dys covers breaking news and public safety for The Herald, where he has been a reporter and columnist since 2000. He has won 51 South Carolina Press Association awards for his coverage of crime, race, justice, and people. He is author of the book “Slice of Dys” and his work is in the U.S. Library of Congress.