September 21, 2014

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Ridgeville teacher on leave after bikini photo, possible sexual contact with student

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — A North Ridgeville High School teacher was placed on paid leave after being accused of sending two photos of herself, including one in a bikini top, to a student and possibly having a sexual relationship with another.

North Ridgeville police Sgt. Adam Freas, Capt. Marti Garrow and school Superintendent Larry Brown answer questions about a teacher in the schools who may have had a sexual relationship with a student. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

The teacher, whose name was not released because no charges have been filed, acknowledged sending the pictures and having “inappropriate and flirtatious” conversations, mainly via text messaging, with at least one and possibly two students, dating back to the summer, police said.

She has, however, denied that any sexual relationship occurred, police said.

The investigation started Wednesday after another teacher heard rumors among the students about a teacher sending inappropriate pictures to at least one high school student and reported it to the school’s leaders.

The teacher voluntarily came forward to talk with James Rutledge, an assistant high school principal, and police Sgt. Adam Freas, a detective and the department’s school resource officer, as Freas was interviewing students about the case.

She said she had heard rumors around the school, police said.

Police and school officials held a brief news conference Thursday, although there were many questions that went unanswered. The investigation, police said, is in its early stages.

“We have about eight hours of investigation in on this at best,” North Ridgeville police Capt. Marti Garrow said.

Police said they searched the teacher’s home and seized her computer and other electronic equipment.

Garrow said the pictures that the teacher sent — she was clothed in both of them — do not constitute a crime. But if the conversations turned sexual as alleged, she could face charges.

“If a teacher had sexual intercourse with a student, regardless of their age, that is sexual battery,” Garrow said. “Sexual conduct is the key.”

Garrow also said the age of the student doesn’t matter. The ages of the students involved were not released.

“It is the fact that it is between a teacher and student that matters,’’ Garrow said.

North Ridgeville Schools Superintendent Larry Brown said the schools would wait to release further information after the police investigation.

He did say, however, that staff handbooks given to teachers spell out permitted and prohibited uses of social media such as cell phones, text messaging, Twitter and the Internet.

“There’s a long list of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors,” Brown said.

Police hope to wrap up their investigation in two to three weeks.

Garrow said it was likely the case would be presented to a grand jury for possible charges.

Anyone with information that may be relevant to the case is asked to contact police at (440) 327-2191.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.