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Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 1:22 PM
— Four area educators face criminal charges for sexual behavior involving students, two others were recently sentenced for similar crimes, and an investigation of a Franklin school employee was announced Tuesday. It’s an unusually bad run of activity, according to local and state officials.
The cases range from multiple charges of sexual battery for relationships between teachers and teen students, to allegations of pandering obscenity for “producing an obscene performance” involving a minor, and even charges of rape of a child younger than 13.
“We’re facing a challenging time right now with the numbers (of cases) that are there,” said Scott Inskeep, superintendent of Kettering Schools. “The piece out of this that I think is essential — please, for the students, for other teachers, for parents or guardians, if you suspect something, let us know. … It may be nothing. But (this time) when it was something, we did exactly what we needed to do.”
The head of one of the largest teachers unions in southwest Ohio said educators must take personal responsibility and draw clear lines in their relationships with students. Dayton teachers union President David Romick urged teachers to be cautious to the point of “standoffishness” with students.
Many local cases
Former Miamisburg Middle School teacher Jessica Langford and Kettering Fairmont High School substitute teacher Madeline Marx are set to appear in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court this week on felony sexual battery charges.
Langford, 32, worked for Miamisburg schools for nine years, earning good evaluations, but is now accused of sexual conduct with a 14-year-old male student at the school, according to Prosecutor Mat Heck. She is to appear in court Tuesday.
Marx, 23, was a substitute teacher in Mad River, Kettering and Oakwood schools, where Oakwood Superintendent Kyle Ramey said there were no “red flags” when Marx worked there. Prosecutors now accuse her of sex acts with 16- and 17-year-old male Kettering Fairmont High School students between May and September, court records show. She is due in court Thursday.
Those charges come on the heels of two male educators being convicted in similar cases.
Former Fairfield high school teacher Tyler Conrad, 26, was sentenced to 180 days in jail in July for sexual imposition and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, stemming from sexual activity with a 16-year-old female student in 2016, court records show.
Former Dayton teacher’s aide and coach Donte Murphy, 29, was sentenced to five years’ probation in October. He was found guilty of sexual battery for having sex in 2016 with an 18-year-old Ponitz Career Tech student whom he coached, according to court records. Another Dayton teacher, John Findley of Stivers, has a hearing scheduled Jan. 5 in his felony case of pandering obscenity involving a minor, who was a student at another school, according to court records.
In Logan County, Indian Lake Superintendent Patrick O’Donnell faces charges that include rape over a three-year period of a child under 13 who was not a student in his district. The 52-year-old has pleaded not guilty, and his trial is set for December.
How common is it?
Each year, the Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Professional Conduct reports its number of investigations into criminal sex offenses and “child services sexual abuse” cases that implicate educators.
Combined, those two categories went from 55 investigations in 2014, up to 69 in 2015, then back down to 46 in 2016. Year-to-date numbers are not available for 2017, according to ODE spokeswoman Brittany Halpin, and not all investigations result in findings of wrongdoing.
Another 150 to 300 investigations per year involved “inappropriate” relationships, behavior, or comments/gestures. But ODE officials said not all of those were of a sexual nature. Halpin said the department’s data is not separated in such a way to show how many of the investigations for “conduct unbecoming the teaching profession” are sex-related.
“You have to look at the big picture of how many licensed educators there are versus how many bad actors,” Halpin said.
The 2016 Office of Professional Conduct report says less than one half of one percent of the state’s 318,000 licensed educators were involved in a 2016 investigation of any kind, including things like academic fraud or falsifying an application, as well as sex-related cases.
While sex charges against educators are relatively rare, they are also not new. In 2013, teachers from Wayne and Centerville high schools were each sentenced to five years of probation and required to register as sex offenders for sexual activity with teen students. Cases pop up in media reports all around the country.
Asked whether sexual tension is inevitable when thousands of teachers, many in their 20s, deal with thousands of teenage high school students every day, two local leaders said teachers must take personal responsibility.
“I have to step outside my own frame of reference, where that absolutely never could be and wasn’t ever even a glint of a thought,” said Romick. “I suppose any time people are put together there are a variety of tensions that are possible. But that relationship between a teacher and a student, I think that rises above any kind of other interpersonal relationships that other people in the world have.”
Inskeep, the Kettering superintendent, said the licensure process and background checks are protections, but are no guarantee of the choices people will make in the future. Still, he said it’s not inevitable that there will be issues.
“I truly feel today that the training and communication that teachers receive when they begin, they understand that there’s a clear line,” he said. “We don’t know what’s in the mind of these individuals, their intentions when they make those choices. I can’t get into their heads. But I really don’t feel it’s inevitable.”
What can be done?
Halpin said Ohio educators are in the state’s “rapback” fingerprint system, which triggers automatic state notification if someone is charged with a crime, so ODE can notify schools quickly. And educators’ licenses can be immediately revoked if they are convicted of an “absolute bar offense,” which includes violent felonies, sex crimes and crimes involving minors, among others.
Romick said Dayton teachers have received training about interacting with students on social media and texting platforms, adding that teacher training colleges, school districts and unions can do more on that front. He said his union sends regular reminders to teachers not to touch students.
“That covers more than (sex), but … don’t innocently hug or put your arm around somebody. Also don’t snatch somebody’s wrist or grab their arm,” Romick said. “I firmly believe that responsibility is with the individual.”
David Vail, superintendent of Miamisburg schools, where Langford taught, echoed the “individual responsibility” statement, saying teachers who commit sexual misconduct crimes with students should have more ethics and “common sense.” He also urged everyone to report questionable behavior.
While sexual activity with students crosses a bright line, there is a question of what lesser behavior is questionable. Should a teacher give a teen student a hug, or talk about a relationship when a student asks for support?
Romick urged teachers to make clear that the relationship is professional and instructional, not personal.
Inskeep said social media connections between teachers and students have blurred that area somewhat, but he said teachers still have to know when to stop an interaction or refer a student to a counselor instead.
The Ohio Department of Education reached final disposition on 1,032 investigations of educators in 2016, on a wide range of academic, financial and criminal allegations. ODE does not have a separate breakdown of all sex-related cases.
46.4 percent: No discipline
25.8 percent: Consent agreement; can include a variety of discipline terms
16.5 percent: Educator’s license revoked or denied
10.9 percent: Letter of admonishment
0.5 percent: License suspended or limited
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 3:57 AM
— QUICK-LOOK FORECAST
TUESDAY: Some snow showers have made their way up from the south with temperatures being at or below freezing for the morning, said Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini. Rain and freezing rain will mix for the next couple of hours with main roads staying above freezing after a mild and sunny day, but a light ice accumulation could develop on elevated surfaces, bridges, and overpasses before and around sunrise. Drivers should take their time if they are out before the sun comes up. Temperatures improve by climbing to the low 40s after sunrise with some dry time expected in the middle of the day. Moisture brings rain showers back towards late afternoon with cold air transitioning everyone to snow for evening hours between 7 and 9 p.m. Expect snow to accumulate through the night. Winds will gust around 30 mph this afternoon and tonight, so drivers should watch for slick roads and poor visibility as a result.
WEDNESDAY: A messy morning commute is expected with temperatures in the 20s and snow still falling. Winds will still gust around 30 mph, so blowing, drifting, and poor visibility are possible. Snow will taper off into the afternoon as moisture shifts east, but overall most of the Miami Valley will end up with around 2 to 4 inches of snow with some areas seeing closer to 5 inches. It’ll be breezy for the rest of the day with mostly cloudy skies and highs in the mid-30s. Chilly temperatures overnight drop to the low 20s.
THURSDAY: Refreeze or lingering snowy roads are possible early since temperatures will be in the low 20s. However, they’ll be big improvements through the day as sunshine returns and temperatures peak in the low 40s. Expect it to be dry throughout the entire day.
FRIDAY: A sunny start with clouds increasing through the day. Highs will peak in the mid-40s as passing showers develop overnight.
SATURDAY: Morning temperatures starting in the upper 20s could mean a brief wintry mix. Rain showers through the afternoon may end as wet snow. Highs reach in the low 40s.
Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 7:34 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 4:18 AM
MIAMI VALLEY — Spring will officially arrive at 12:15 p.m. today, but someone forgot to tell Mother Nature. A winter storm is taking aim on the Miami Valley and will bring a mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow to the region starting this morning.
RELATED: Winter Weather Advisory in effect
Precipitation is expected to develop early today across the far southern Miami Valley and spread northward toward I-70 by daybreak. Much of the precipitation will fall as rain, but as temperatures drop toward daybreak, a band of freezing rain is possible.
The morning commute may not be too bad, Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell said.
"The last few days of mild temperatures has helped push road surface temperatures well above freezing. That means that main roads should just be wet early Tuesday," he said. "However, elevated surfaces like cars, bridges and decks could become slippery."
But the wintry weather won't be over yet.
A Winter Weather Advisory will go into effect as of 8 p.m. tonight and continue until 8 p.m. Wednesday. A break in the precipitation is expected midday today before returning in the evening. As temperatures drop after sunset, snow will become the primary form of precipitation and it will increase in coverage and intensity tonight, Elwell said.
"Snowfall amounts will generally range from 2 to 4 inches by mid-morning Wednesday," Elwell said. "But isolated higher amounts are possible.
This is something we'll have to watch closely as new model data comes in."
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 5:00 AM
PREBLE COUNTY — Nearly 1,200 DP&L customers are without power in Preble County.
According to the DP&L website, power is expected to be restored by 6 a.m. The outage was reported around 4:35 a.m.
Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 3:35 PM
— University of Dayton students proved the leaders of their school wrong on St. Patrick’s Day.
Just three days before holiday, UD administrators claimed it was highly unlikely that the disturbances of five years ago would repeat themselves thanks to an improvement in campus culture and memories of 2013 debauchery being long-forgotten.
Students on Lowes Street reportedly threw objects at police, shot fireworks into crowds of people and by 6:30 p.m., officers arrived in riot gear and ordered partiers indoors, though many at first ignored those commands.
“I am deeply disappointed in the behavior of many of you. I witnessed groups of students assault police officers, shoot fireworks into crowds, and put themselves and their friends in danger,” UD president Eric Spina wrote in a letter to the student body.
Next year students will again be on spring break and classes will resume on March 18, according to UD’s academic calendar. St. Patrick’s Day is always a factor in when to schedule spring break and because of Saturday’s incidents it likely will remain one, said vice president for student development Bill Fischer.
“That is an option that we are carefully looking at in the future, as well as other options…to avoid the escalation of this type of situation,” Fischer said. “So, all of this is on the table for further discussion.”
Dayton police officers responded just before 5:30 p.m. to a report of people trying to assault officers in the 400 block of Lowes Street in the UD student neighborhood, according to a police report.
Police carrying shields formed a line on Lowes Street. Police ordered students to head inside their homes and began moving down the 400 block of Lowes Street in an attempt to clear the crowd.
Party goers threw both empty and full glass beer bottles and cans at police as they moved down Lowes Street, according to a Dayton police report. It’s unknown whether any officers were actually struck by thrown objects, according to a report.
At least one woman reported to police that her car was damaged after her son parked it near the student neighborhood overnight on Saturday. The 2009 Honda Accord had its side-view mirrors broken off, the front fender was dented and the driver told police he believed people had been standing on the hood and roof of the vehicle.
At least five cases stemming from the weekend riot were pending in Dayton Municipal Court on Monday including charges of noise violations, disorderly conduct, open container violations and public intoxication, according to court records.
“This behavior is absolutely unacceptable, as is the distorted sense of community that encourages and enables it,” Spina wrote in his letter. “Let me be clear: the large gatherings that block streets, the disregard for the safety of others, and the disrespect for the police who were there to keep people safe in no way constitutes community.”
Spina declined to comment on Monday but his letter drew a stark contrast to the hopeful words of administrators who spoke about preparations for St. Patrick’s Day on Wednesday. Just days before the holiday, UD police Chief Rodney Chatman said he believed students knew how to act and dean of students Christine Schramm said that the university was encouraging students to take part in activities without alcohol.
In preparation for the holiday, Chatman last week said “our students behave” and “they know their expectation” but on Monday he expressed disappointment.
“Overall I’m satisfied with the result but I’m disappointed in the behavior that elevated our response,” he said.
Though less violent and disruptive, Saturday’s incidents served as a reminder of the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day campus riot on its fifth anniversary.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Year after 2013 St. Patrick’s Day riots, UD preparing students
More than 1,000 people rioted in UD’s student neighborhood in 2013, leaving broken bottles and damaged cars, including a police cruiser, in their wake on Kiefaber Street. Law enforcement from 10 jurisdictions responded to the riot five years ago.