Horry special ed teacher resigns after arrest. Here’s what internal school records show

An Horry County Schools special education teacher resigned just a few days after being arrested for allegedly harming a student.

Gabriel Hernandez, formerly with St. James Intermediate, submitted his resignation April 17 for “personal reasons,” according to documents included in his personnel file, acquired by The Sun News through the Freedom of Information Act.

Hernandez was arrested April 14 on a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to children. A witness told Horry County Police that Hernandez dragged the student across the room by his arms and then put all his body weight on the child’s legs by sitting on him for about 30 seconds, according to the incident report.

An attorney representing Hernandez did not immediately return a request for comment.

HCS had placed Hernandez on administrative leave with pay March 20, four days after reported incident occurred.

This was the second time during the 2022-23 school year that Hernandez was placed on leave, according to his personnel file, which showed the district also did so beginning November 1 while it investigated “allegations of unprofessional conduct.”

He was allowed to return to work November 18, though a letter from the district’s human resources officer cautioned that “it is imperative that you understand that conduct of this nature will not be tolerated and could place your employment in jeopardy.”

Nicole Perez told The Sun News her 10-year-old son is the victim related involved in the allegations against Hernandez. Hernandez was placed on leave last November for allegedly stepping on her son’s hand on purpose, she said.

Perez said her son, who has autism, has been afraid to return to the classroom since the March incident, and she’s planning to move her family out of South Carolina out of fear for her son’s safety.

Hernandez began working at HCS during the 2019-20 school year as a special education teacher at Waccamaw Elementary and also worked briefly at Lakewood Elementary, according to his personnel file.

He had also resigned in December 2021 before being quickly rehired, his record shows.

Hernandez is one of three HCS special education employees arrested during the current school year on charges related to harming students.

Georgia Branch, a teacher’s aide at Myrtle Beach Elementary, was also arrested in April and charged with cruelty to children for allegedly hitting a 9-year-old boy.

Ocean Bay Elementary teacher Grace McColgan was arrested in November and charged with six counts of unlawful conduct towards a child for alleged actions including smacking students, dumping a child out of a chair and rubbing hand sanitizer on an open wound.