School employee who was accused of inappropriately touching students is found dead

EAST RIDGE, Tennessee(WDEF) – The Hamilton County School employee accused of inappropriately touching young female students at East Ridge Elementary has reportedly taken his life and left two notes behind.

According to both the medical examiners officer and East Ridge police, the suicide occurred this past Saturday at a hotel on Lee Highway.

What was written on both notes has not been disclosed.

WDEF contacted East Ridge Elementary but no one will comment.

The Hamilton County School District office was also called but officials were not available for comment.

The mother of two of the alleged victims spoke to WDEF about the recent developments involving the employee’s death.

"We are not aware of what’s in the notes. But when we were told by the detective who opened the criminal investigation here in East Ridge, tears fell. I was pretty shocked. Now there’s a dead person with no justice and no closure" she said.

WDEF asked her why she felt he committed suicide.

"I believe he did it out of guilt. I believe he knew he was guilty of what he did and was not going to be able to get out of it," she said.

The woman told WDEF that both her daughters have undergone counseling.

"We held them tight and told them this is not their fault; what he did had nothing to do with what they did by coming forward because they did the right thing," she said.

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EAST RIDGE, Tennessee(WDEF) – Nearly four weeks after an employee at East Ridge Elementary School was placed on leave following disturbing accusations, more details were revealed.

According to one of the young victims, the accusation are based on inappropriate touching. WDEF has also learned that more than one student has come forward with allegations against the employee who is now on leave.

On March 27, Hamilton County School District leaders confirmed to WDEF that a non-licensed employee at East Ridge Elementary had been placed on leave following an allegation of misconduct. But officials would not specify what type of misconduct. School leaders also stated the allegation came from a student and that the matter was under investigation by the Hamilton County School District.

The mother of two of the alleged victims spoke exclusively to WDEF about the allegations. She allowed WDEF to also ask her oldest daughter about what happened. Because the alleged victim is a minor, WDEF will not identify her or her mother.

"My string to my pants was undone and so he would grab  it and pull me to him. I would step back and he was say there’s nothing to be afraid of. Whenever he called me back up there, I went up there and he started unzipping my jacket and he would start to give me massages when I went back to my seat," said the girl.

The alleged victim also stated that she was in fear of the school employee who is now suspended.

"I’m the only one in the class that he does that to and that’s when I’m scared of it. It happens everyday," said the girl who also mentioned what the employee said to her on one occasion. "He says this is really nothing you need to be talking about, and that I’m just trying to be helpful, and you don’t need to be rude about it."

"My daughter had been subjected to this all year long. My daughter only came forward because her younger sister said something to her about it," said the mom.

The man accused of inappropriate touching has not been charged with a crime. WDEF was given the identity of the accused but will not reveal his name unless he has been charged with a crime or identified by the school district.

"We found out through the media that police were not called. The school told us they would call the police," said the mom.

But according to the East Ridge Police Department, there is no active criminal investigation. A detective confirmed to WDEF that the department was never contacted by the school. WDEF wanted to know why police were not involved so several calls and an email were sent to the office of Stacy Stewart.

Stewart is the Assistant Superintendent over human resources for the Hamilton County School District. She declined a request to comment; only to say in an emailed response the accusations are being investigated internally by the Hamilton County School District.

The mom told WDEF that on a Wednesday, school officials contacted them and said her daughter reported the allegations to them.

"We were offered to have the teacher come in and have a meeting with us the next morning and apologize to us which we refused. We had a meeting of our own the next morning. Later that day we video recorded our daughters statements where they mentioned other children," said the mom.

She told WDEF that the next day she showed the video to school officials and demanded the teacher be removed from school property. She said it was at that meeting that she and her husband learned that their eldest daughter came to school officials about the allegations the previous Monday. The mom told WDEF that school officials said they had protocols to follow before any action could be taken.

"I’m disturbed that my daughter went to the school and told them and that teacher was allowed to teach for five more days before the school suspended him without pay," she said.

The parent removed their two children from the school after the meeting which was two days before spring break. Days later the parents said they received call from Child Protective Services.

"We were told that they would be in contact with us. They said they were concerned about what happened and that there were more allegations than what they were made aware of," said the mom.

While on spring break vacation, the family said CPS contacted them and said they needed to meet with them which they eventually did.

She said both her daughters have come forward with allegations and that another child gave a written statement.

"What is in that written statement, we are not allowed to have as parents because we’re not privy to any school investigations. Only the school has that information. Parents are not allowed to have that information," said the mom.

Both parents have already consulted with an attorney.

"We are greatly angry. We’re really mad because our daughter had the courage to come forward; so did other children but the school is sweeping it under the rug. And that’s exactly what it feels like; like we’re being harassed and. This man is walking free and it’s not ok," said the mom.

WDEF contacted Child Advocacy Center experts about what is considered breaking the law when it comes to inappropriate touching.

According to the experts, inappropriate touching only becomes illegal when a person intentionally touches a child’s private parts with the intent for gratification in return. Experts also say that includes touching private parts over clothing.

Categories: Chattanooga, Crime, Local News

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