New Hilton Head manager named in wrongful death lawsuit

For the past decade, Hilton Head Island Middle School’s new principal, Tanja Wheeler, has worked in the United Arab Emirates as a principal and in Fulton, MD as a teacher.

But before that, she was a deputy principal in Maryland which was accused in a wrongful death trial of placing a student in “imminent danger” by ignoring threats against him, according to a Baltimore Sun report.

In May 2009, 14-year-old Christopher David Jones was assaulted by six other teenagers in Crofton, Maryland, a suburb of Annapolis. He died of his injuries a few hours later.

Her parents, David Jones and Jenny Adkins, filed a civil lawsuit 11 months later against the Anne Arundel County Board of Education and the six teenagers involved in her death.

Wheeler has never been named an individual defendant in the case, and the school board was removed from office as a defendant in 2011, Laurie Pritchard, director of legal services for Anne Arundel, said Thursday.

One of the other defendants, Javel George, 20, was ordered to pay the family $ 1.8 million in 2013.

But in the lawsuit, Christopher’s parents alleged that Wheeler was aware that a student threatened to stab Christopher in the cafeteria, but did not contact them about the threat.

They also alleged that Wheeler met them after several calls and recommended that he be transferred to another school, and that she promised to contact police and other authorities about the situation, according to the Baltimore Sun. .

Wheeler “took no action to keep those promises” and put Christopher’s life in “imminent danger”, according to the prosecution.

According to the Sun, Wheeler went from being a deputy principal to a position in library and media services at the central office of the Anne Arundel County Public Schools before the complaint was filed.

Pritchard said Wheeler resigned in 2011 and that she did not know any of the details of Wheeler’s reported transfer to Media Services.

Did Beaufort County School District Know?

Wheeler replaces Patricia Freda, who is retiring after more than 35 years in teaching. Previously, she was Director of Nacel International School Systems and Future International School.

Wheeler’s hiring was approved in an 8-0-1 vote by the school board on Wednesday night. William Smith abstained, saying he was able to view and understand the documents related to the hiring. David Striebinger and Angela Middleton did not vote.

Wheeler was one of nine directors announced at the meeting and one of two outside hires that required a vote. The other vote to hire Bradley Tarrance as director of Robert Smalls International Academy fell in the same direction.

Beaufort County School District spokeswoman Candace Bruder declined to say whether the district human resources department or the school board were aware of Wheeler’s involvement in the lawsuit.

“The district performs background checks on all employees nationwide to check for any violations of laws,” Bruder said. “Just because an individual is referenced in something does not mean that he has committed a crime. “

Wheeler was not immediately available for comment.

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Rachel Jones covers education for the Island Packet and the Beaufort Gazette. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and worked for the Daily Tar Heel and Charlotte Observer. She has won awards from the South Carolina Press Association, Associated College Press, and North Carolina College Media Association for editorial writing and educational reporting.


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