December 18, 2014

Elyria
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High school teacher resigns amid allegations of inappropriate conduct

David Richardson

David Richardson

ELYRIA — An Elyria High School science teacher has resigned amid allegations of inappropriate behavior with a female student.

District officials said nothing sexual happened between the 14-year teacher and the student, but the incident was the latest in a pattern of incidents that date to 2003 and have been documented by the district.

David Richardson, 51, of North Ridgeville, resigned from his teaching job in a letter dated Jan. 30. In the letter, he said he was taking another job.

“I have a job opportunity that I cannot pass up,” the letter said. “I have enjoyed working with the students, staff and Elyria community.”

The Elyria school board accepted the resignation at a meeting Feb. 6.

District spokeswoman Amy Higgins said Richardson last taught in the district on Jan. 8, the first day school resumed following winter break. That day, Richardson was placed on paid administrative leave after a female student alleged he inappropriately touched her. He never returned to the classroom.

“We immediately began an investigation that included the school administration, district administration and Elyria police. Lorain County Children Services was also contacted,” Higgins said. “The Elyria police investigation concluded nothing criminal or sexual happened, and Children Services did not feel their involvement was warranted further. But the teacher’s actions were inappropriate, unprofessional and did not reflect the behavior expected from all teachers and staff. When confronted, he chose to resign.”

Police Capt. Chris Costantino said detectives will continue to investigate any incidents reported to them and, if warranted, forward cases to the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office.

District Human Resource Director Gary Taylor said Richardson has filed for unemployment and the district will dispute the claim.

“I can only assume he will argue he resigned because he was facing termination,” Taylor said.

Higgins said the district was prepared to terminate Richardson, in part because a history of incidents is documented in his personnel file.

In 2009, two female students went to then-Assistant Principal Joy Jones and then-school resource Officer James Homoki with allegations that in November 2008 and again in January 2009 Richardson physically touched one of the female students on her head and shoulder and peered down her shirt from behind, according to his personnel file.

The story was corroborated by another female student seated in an adjacent seat at the same table, a report of the incident said.

“Both students indicated their discomfort with this,” said a letter in Richardson’s personnel file.

The female student was transferred to a new class and Richardson received a two-day unpaid suspension. The district, according to a disciplinary action notation in his file, told Richardson his behavior rose to the level of sexual harassment.

“Mr. Richardson was advised that he is to cease any physical contact toward female students,” the letter said. It was signed by Taylor and the high school’s then-Principal Darren Conley.

Another letter in Richardson’s file detailed allegations from April 2003. Then-Principal Mike Gillam wrote in detail about classroom incidents that were reported to him.

“You physically grabbed a female student by the side, after a comment of “I am going to get you,” you began to tickle her,” the incident report said. “The student asked you to stop, which you did, a short time later. While student-teacher relationships are very important, this physical touching (tickling) is inappropriate and cannot occur again.”

The lengthy report also said Richardson — when dealing with another female student who was about to sit down on a book bag strap — grabbed the strap and said, “You do not want this to go up your anus.’’

In addition, Gillam said female students brought to his attention incidents when Richardson would send roses, purchase holiday gifts and write notes to female students signed, “Love.’’

“Flowers, personal gifts such as body lotions, etc … are not to be given to students,” Gillam wrote to Richardson in the letter. “The implication is that these gifts denote a relationship that could be more than student-teacher interaction. Cards that are signed “love,’’ or “I miss you,” imply more of the same.”

Gillam told Richardson not to give any current or former students or student aides gifts, to restrict use of student aides to times when he was teaching in a classroom and be limited to male students, according to the letter in Richardson’s personnel file.

Taylor said the 2003 incident was handled with a plan for corrective action and it — in and of itself — did not warrant termination.

Following the 2003 incident, Richardson submitted a rebuttal to be put in his file.

“The alleged actions, while taken out of context, may have shown some poor judgment on my part due to lack of experience,” it said. “There were never any intentions on my part to be disrespectful to any of my students or any motives beyond a teacher-student relationship. The gifts were simply an attempt to show appreciation for the hard work done by my student aides. I appreciate the administration bringing their concerns to my attention. I have become aware of how some of my actions might be perceived by some people the wrong way.”

Richardson received a bachelor’s degree in zoology from The Ohio State University in 1990 and his teaching certification from Cleveland State University in 2000, according to paperwork in his file.

He was a student teacher at Westlake High School before Elyria Schools hired him in 2000 as a science teacher.

Other incidents not related his conduct with female students, but noted in Richardson’s personnel file, include not signing student attendance forms, sending students to the media center when they should be in class, and being neglectful in his record-keeping.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.