Horry County police closed an investigation into sexual assault allegations involving a Socastee High special education teacher after the victim’s family declined to pursue criminal charges, according to police records released Tuesday.
The release of the records came a day after a civil lawsuit was filed that accused former Socastee volleyball coach and special education teacher Rachel Gray of sexually assaulting one of her male students. Gray has not been charged with any crime and her attorney maintains the allegations in the lawsuit are untrue.
Police learned of the allegations on March 30, the same day an attorney representing the student's family sent a letter to the school district outlining their concerns about Gray, according to court records and reports released by the police department.
The police records describe how the school learned of allegations of an “inappropriate sexual relationship between a student and teacher.”
“After the arrival of SVU, it was determined that the school received an email from a civil litigation attorney alleging ‘teacher-on-student sexual assault and sexual harassment,’” states the police report, which was written by HCPD Detective John Brantly. “After reading the email, as well as 3 photographs of a phone screen that appeared to be possibly redacted; I requested to speak with the teacher. Upon her arriving, she was explained the allegations and then was advised of her Miranda Rights, in which she invoked. I seized her cell phone to obtain a search warrant for it.”
Brantly then reached out to the student's parents about scheduling an interview with their son, according to his report. However, he said the response to his call was confrontational. The person who spoke to Brantly is not identified in the report.
“After explaining again that this had nothing to do with a civil litigation thing, that this was a criminal investigation he advised that he had a 5 million dollar lawsuit against the school and his attorney advised him not to talk to anyone,” Brantly’s report states. “I inquired if that also included the police in a criminal investigation, and he stated yes because he didn't want to pursue criminal charges. He stated that he needed to call his attorney and I informed him that this was my direct office number.”
Filed on Monday, the lawsuit alleges that Rachel Gray, a varsity volleyball coach and special education teacher, “engaged in inappropriate sexual relationships with male students” and school officials either knew or should have known about those incidents.
Brantly wrote that he later received a call from Joshua Slavin, the family’s attorney, who helped schedule a meeting for March 31 with the family.
But the next day, the detective was notified by Slavin that the family did not want to pursue criminal charges, according to Brantly’s report.
Slavin told the detective that pursuing a case “would be too invasive on their part,” the report stated. Police made a follow-up inquiry on April 24 but received no response.
“This case is closed EX-CLEAR, Victim Declines Prosecution,” the report states.
The HCPD records shed light on how police learned about the allegations and the department's response to them.
When MyHorryNews.com initially asked for all police reports involving Gray on April 12, the county’s FOIA manager, Aaron Spelbring, said in an email that the county didn’t have any records responsive to that request. On Tuesday, a day after the lawsuit was filed, Spelbring said in an email that the subject of the investigation was not listed in the initial police report, so he was unable to find the records on April 12 because he could not confirm the subject's identity.
When asked about the police department’s decision to close the case, Slavin, who represents the student’s family, said police could still pursue an investigation, especially after they review all the evidence his clients possess.
“Not exactly the case that they declined to prosecute,” he said. “That’s all I can tell you.”
Slavin said he’s been in touch with an HCPD detective about the matter and will “continue to try and navigate this with the family.”
HCPD spokeswoman Mikayla Moskov could not immediately be reached for comment.
Gray worked at Socastee High from 2016 until her resignation on April 18, according to Horry County Schools spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier.
"Horry County Schools is aware of a lawsuit filed on May 15, 2023, regarding allegations of a sexual nature between a former employee and a student," Bourcier said in an email. "When school staff became aware of the allegations, Horry County Police was immediately notified, and school staff and the district office cooperated fully with law enforcement and their investigation. At this time no additional comments will be made due to pending litigation."
The lawsuit accuses the district of not preventing Gray from sexually assaulting the student, who is identified only as John Doe, a male age 15-16.
“Ms. Gray groomed John Doe with preferential treatment including doing his homework, inflating his grades, letting him sleep in class, and sending personal messages to him via Snapchat. (Snapchat messages permanently disappear after they are read unless the reader saves them, which would also be shown to the sender.),” the lawsuit states. “As a special needs student in Ms. Gray’s class, John Doe was particularly vulnerable to inappropriate and abusive emotional manipulation and sexual assault by Ms. Gray.”
The sexual misconduct began in the spring semester of this year, according to the lawsuit.
“This included keeping John Doe in her class after other students were dismissed and sexually assaulting him, sending sexual messages and nude pictures to John Doe via Snapchat, and tracking his location on his phone,” the lawsuit states.
Gene Connell, Gray’s attorney, said his client denies the allegations outlined in the lawsuit.
“They're not true," he said. "Anybody can put anything in a complaint.”
Although Gray is identified in the lawsuit, the student's family is not suing her. Horry County Schools is the only defendant listed in the complaint.
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