Harris Co. teacher at center of sexual battery case involving minor

James Harris Steel
James Harris Steel(Source: Harris County Sheriff's Office)
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 10:59 PM EST
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HAMILTON, Ga. (WTVM) - We’re learning more about the Harris County High School teacher charged with sexual battery involving a minor. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has been asked to handle the case. Tonight, we have reactions from people in the area about these allegations.

Jim Steel is 69 years old. According to his LinkedIn, a social media platform for professionals, he’s taught at Harris County High since 2018.

“I think as a 69-year-old person, you should be able to control those type things and not bring it into the school system,” those are the thoughts of former Harris County substitute teacher Willie Mae Phillips. She was shocked to hear that 69-year-old Harris County High School teacher Jim Steel, also known as James, was booked into the county jail, charged with sexual battery for allegedly having inappropriate contact with a minor under 16.

“I know kids can get playful with you, but when I was subbing, I did not get playful with students,” Phillips adds.

According to the Harris County School District, Steel was a Construction teacher. Two years ago, he received an Impact Award for landing in the state’s Top 10 of over 160 skilled trade instructors.

On his LinkedIn profile, Steel says he’s worked at Harris County High School since 2018 and taught Construction at Crisp County High School and Lee County, Georgia.

“It’s uh, you know, disturbing and, you know, a little, you know, scary,” said Harris County parent Cassie Fuller.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Steel was indicted by a grand jury two weeks ago. The Harris County Sheriff’s office says his first hearing was Monday, when the case was sent to Superior Court.

Though it’s unclear when the alleged incidents happened, News Leader 9 has learned Hamilton Police reached out to the GBI to investigate allegations that Steel had inappropriate contact with several students.

“My thoughts about that one is that the kids should be safe, and we put the teachers in place so that they can teach our kids but not assault our kids,” said Columbus resident Bruce Williams, who’s related to a Harris County High School student.

The Harris County School District said they immediately notified the Harris County Sheriff’s office when the alleged incident was first reported. Steel was then placed on administrative leave with no access to students.

“I think the steps are appropriate for this behavior until we get the outcome of everything. I think the school handled it very well,” said Williams.

News Leader 9 also reached out to the GBI for more information, but because this is an ongoing investigation, they are not releasing any at this time. Steele remains in the Harris County jail without bond.