The case of a Talawanda middle school teacher accused of inappropriately touching a seventh-grade student appears to be moving through the hands of the Butler County prosecutor.
Dustin Lema, the student’s father, told The Observer this week that the district attorney’s office was involved in the case. A spokesman for prosecutor Michael Gmoser said the office expects to be involved in the case.
Lema also said he believes the school district‘s investigation will wrap up shortly.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a decision on the Title IX complaint by the end of the week,” he said.
The incident reportedly happened at the school on December 1. The student told another teacher and the school notified Oxford police the same day, according to the police incident report, which has been heavily redacted. A few days later, Superintendent Ed Theroux announced on the school district’s blog that a faculty member had been suspended with pay while the incident was investigated.
Theroux said at the Jan. 10 Board of Education meeting that the district could not discuss the specifics of the case, but the matter was being handled by the school district as a complaint under Title IX of the Federal Civil Rights Act, which covers gender discrimination. .
At that same meeting, Lema came forward and spoke out against the board because the district never did anything about previous complaints about the same teacher.
“My daughter is the latest student to be victimized by a teacher at your college,” Lema said. “Even though she was scared and confused, she knew what had just happened. [was] wrong.”
Several other parents and pupils also approached the council, saying they had complained or been abused by the same teacher.
According to some of those who spoke, their complaints were ignored and no charges were ever filed.
Carley Collins, whose daughter is a seventh grade classmate of Lema’s daughter, said her child expressed concern about the same teacher last fall and that she (the mother) met with the principal college assistant on this subject.
“We followed proper protocol,” Collins said. “Absolutely nothing has been done. If the school board, administration or administration of Talawanda Middle School had taken his complaint more seriously, maybe [Lema’s daughter] would have been spared.
Neither the board nor Theroux responded to statements that previous complaints about the teacher had not been addressed.
Theroux also refrained from indicating whether previous charges regarding the teacher had been referred to the police, as required by Ohio law stipulating that educators are legally required to report any complaints of sexual misconduct involving a child to the appropriate authorities immediately.
Oxford Police Lt. Lara Fening declined to comment this week on whether schools in Talawanda had reported any previous instances of misconduct involving the teacher.
“I can’t comment on that,” Fening said. “In fairness to the school, maybe those [accusations that had been allegedly ignored] were not reported as a crime.