LANCASTER, S.C. (WBTV) – A longtime teacher is accused of stealing money raised by students and staff meant for the American Cancer Society, according to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office.
Yvonne Johnson Oswald, 48, is charged with embezzlement of public funds.
Oswald was a teacher for more than 20 years and worked at A.R. Rucker Middle School for the Lancaster County School District. School district leaders said students and staff were able to pay $2 to participate in “dress down” days rather than wearing school uniforms.
The money was to be deposited and donated to the American Cancer Society by Oswald, the report states.
An employee reported the possible embezzlement to the school district in January 2016.
The school district conducted an internal investigation and turned findings over to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office. Funds were noted to be missing from collections in September 2015 and November 2015, according to the school district.
Oswald was questioned by school leaders and the conversation was recorded.
The veteran teacher admitted that she had not deposited an estimated $500 from September and had instead used the money for personal purposes, according to the sheriff’s report. Oswald told deputies that $600 from November 2015 collections was “locked up in her room,” the report states.
That money was recovered, Lancaster County School leaders said. Oswald resigned from her position within the school district and was arrested and charged last week.
According to the sheriff’s report, Oswald had been instructed to govern the fundraiser money “for the past few years.”
For parents like Cassie Bright, the allegations against the teacher are personal.
“My father had cancer. Half of my family has died of cancer, and that just makes me really really upset, that is wrong,” Bright said.
Bryan Vaughn with Lancaster County Schools said school staffers placed the former employee on paid leave while they conducted an internal investigation.
“I think there’s a lot of concern, just from a moral standpoint,” Vaughn said. “Anytime public dollars are taken I think there’s a trust issue.”
Vaughn said it was possible the district could recover the $500 through restitution, depending on the outcome of the criminal court case.
According to Vaughn, Oswald was cooperative during the investigation.
“Once she was confronted, she was cooperative with the investigation and she took responsibility for her actions,” Vaughn said.
WBTV went to Oswald’s listed address for a comment, but no one came to the door.
Neighbors said the allegations are against her character.
“I was surprised, and I hate it for her, and I know she didn’t really mean to do anything wrong,” said neighbor Glenn Sowers.
Bright said giving money to allow her child to challenge the dress code occasionally hit her pocket book, but she thought the money was going towards a good cause.
“We work hard for that money, and for us to give our kids $2, it might not seem like it’s a lot, but sometimes it is,” said Bright.
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