Scandals involving inappropriate, often sexual relationships between teachers and students have become an epidemic in recent years. Dozens have made headlines just in the past decade or so. According to one study, between 2001 and 2005, 2,570 teachers were disciplined for inappropriate relations with students.
At just one Texas high school, there have been five teacher-student sex scandals in the past year alone.
But a 29-year-old teacher in Cross, South Carolina — an unincorporated community in Berkley County — stands accused this week of taking the student-teacher sex scandal outbreak to an entirely new level.
Ellen Lindsay Niemiec of Summerville was arrested Thursday and charged with sexual battery in connection to an April 11 incident when she allegedly had sex with three male students in one encounter during a house party in Berkley County.
Two of the students were 17 years old, making the charges felonies in those cases. The other student was 18, making the sexual battery case involving that student a misdemeanor charge.
Making the case even more disturbing, and puzzling, Niemiec is married and the mother of three children of her own.
"Obviously, this is the very beginning of the case," said her lawyer Davis Aylor. "This is obviously extremely difficult for her and her family."
Aylor said that he had not yet discussed the alleged incident with Niemiec and so did not know what, if anything, actually happened.
The teacher was freed on $21,092 bond, but as a condition of her release, she is barred from setting foot in the community of Cross. Niemiec lives in nearby Summerville.
Cross High School officials notified the Berkley County Sheriff's office about the allegations against the 29-year-old teacher, who had allegedly been engaged in inappropriate relations for several weeks before the investigation began on April 28.
At that time, the school placed Ellen Niemiec on administrative leave. But she has since either been fired or resigned from the school, according to a Cross High School spokesperson.
"She was entrusted with educating and keeping her students safe," said a detective investigating the case Brian Fenton. "That's the trust she violated. The Cross community is a very tight-knit, small community. In small communities the school is the center of the community. When a teacher violates her students' trust, she essentially violates the whole community's trust."
Ellen Niemiec is also banned from any contact with Cross High School students as she awaits her next court appearance.