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EXCLUSIVE: Parents of victims in Springboro PE teacher misconduct case share fears, frustrations

Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2019 @ 9:59 AM
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2019 @ 7:15 AM

The case against former Clearcreek Elementary School physical education teacher Austin Hopkins is moving forward.

The case against former Clearcreek Elementary School physical education teacher Austin Hopkins is moving forward.

He’s accused of sexually abusing dozens of first grade girls in his gym class.

News Center 7 I-Team reporter Molly Koweek sat down with five families for the first time as they shared their frustrations.

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>> RELATED: Former Springboro PE teacher accused of sex charges involving 28 female students

Those families have been angry for months over how the school handled the case, but a Springboro Community City Schools spokesperson defended the district’s actions.

Eighty-eight girls are involved in the case. Some have left the district, but most of the girls just started second grade.

It’s been a wrenching process for their parents who can’t get the images of Hopkins with their girls out of their minds.

The prosecution said that classroom surveillance video showed some of Hopkins’ reported misconduct.

The five families shared with Molly Koweek the different things they said they saw on the surveillance video.

“Inappropriately touching our daughters where his hands shouldn’t be,” said a father.

 “Our daughter was sitting with him on the bleachers with his hand around her waist,” added a mother.

“He ran his hands over my daughter’s body,” said another father.

“Then started rubbing her bottom,” recalled a third dad. “... That was with his right hand, and with his left hand he went in between her legs.”

 “Our daughter was sitting with him on the bleachers with his hand around her waist,” added a mother.

“He ran his hands over my daughter’s body,” said another father.

“Then started rubbing her bottom,” recalled a third dad. “... That was with his right hand, and with his left hand he went in between her legs.”

Another mom said Hopkins “rubbed himself on her, and as he did that he rubbed her belly and nuzzled her neck.”

“And then they went off camera together,” said one mother. “I’ll never know what happened because there’s no cameras in his office. And then they came back out together.”

Parents of Alleged Springboro Victims | Extended Interview

>> RELATED: Parents frustrated with long process in Springboro PE teacher investigation

“She became real fidgety, so he put her down and went on to the next,” a dad explained.

These six parents said Hopkins sexually abused one girl after another.

“We’ve been living with this for six months,” a father said.

When asked how the school responded he answered, “Crickets. No response, or very little. We’re met with resistance at every turn.”

And with a new school year starting, one mother said her daughter didn't want to go back.

“She’s just not the same little girl that she was before,” she said.

“She has accidents at school,” said another mom. “She just, you know, acts different with my husband.”

“We were dreading the day we had to send our kids back to school,” a dad explained.

The parents told the I-Team that since learning of the alleged abuse back in March that they have not felt supported by the school district leaders they trusted.

Molly Koweek went to the district to share the parents’ complaint.

Scott Marshall, Springboro schools communications coordinator, said the district has been “absolutely transparent” in the case.

He said letters sent by the district to parents show that it’s been as supportive as it can while respecting the ongoing court case.

“As a school district you spend a lot of time and resources trying to prevent a threat from the outside coming in, and in this particular instance there was a threat inside the building,” Marshall said. 

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He added that district removed Hopkins from the building immediately.

“You have 88 victims and [the district is] saying, ‘Well, there’s nothing that we can do about that, so let’s just brush this under the carpet and hope it goes away,’” said a father.

The parents said that getting rid of Hopkins, who later resigned, was a first step. But now the school must make policy changes.

That’s what Marshall said the district is doing by sending parents and students a new survey.

“It’s designed so that the family can sit down together and fill it out,” Marshall said. “If a student brings up a concern and a family member hears it, they can immediately alert the school.”

A new curriculum this school year was started in kindergarten through fifth grade to educate and empower kids and adults with information and strategies to prevent and recognize all types of abuse.

The group of parents weren’t aware of those new changes.

“From my perspective we haven’t seen any significant change,” said a dad.

The parents wondered why no one was monitoring the surveillance video prosecutors said captured the abuse for three months.

“Some supervision would be appropriate; adhering to the policies where there are in class visits and reviews and drop-in visits.”

News Center 7’s I-Team got records of Hopkins performance evaluations. In them, we found no documentation of drop-in visits, although the district said they did happen.

“Let’s look at the hiring practices that allowed this predator to get into the school to start with,” a father said.

The parents’ attorney believes Hopkins’ hiring violated Springboro’s internal employment policy.

>> RELATED: Ex-Springboro teacher posts bond, will be released from jail

In part, the policy says the superintendent should recommend the best-qualified person “regardless of the relationship to present employees or members of the board.”

Hopkins’ mother is a teacher in the district and his grandfather a former principal.

“Just because they have family in the district doesn't mean he's going to get the job,” said Marshall. “He had to interview just like anybody else, in front of the exact same people and if they made a decision on that based on his interview and based on their scoring system, and he got the job as a result of that.”

Even though Hopkins is now on house arrest while awaiting trial, these parents don’t feel safe.

“I can’t point to anything the district has done to reassure us that the situation that allowed this horrible criminal activity to be conducted has changed or [been] addressed in any significant fashion,” one father said.

“It just hurts and it's just like on a deep emotional level emotionally and personally to not have that support, when you are trusting your children daily in their hands,” added a mother.

Moving forward, one dad said he hopes the district communicates better and is more transparent.

“Actually show that they care,” he said. “You know, whether they agree or disagree with what occurred, we’re all in pain. We’re all hurting. And you know, to simply care for someone, [that] can be extended, but we’ve not seen any of that.”

“We’ve been carrying this burden for six months, since the first day the detectives called and said, ‘Come watch your daughter,’” another dad said.

Those six parents represent five girls. 

Prosecutors said Hopkins had physical contact with 88 girls, but only 28 are connected to the case’s 36-count indictment.

>> RELATED: Springboro Schools speaks out after former PE teacher indicted on sex crimes

That’s because Ohio law says sexual contact seen on video has to show sexual arousal or gratification. 

The mothers and fathers who spoke to News Center 7 consisted of parents of the 28 girls and girls not tied to the criminal charges.

But all six parents felt that no matter what the charges said, all their daughters were equally victimized.