HUBER HEIGHTS — The News Center 7 I-Team worked all day Monday to get some upset parents some answers. Their kids are in the Bethel Local Schools District in Miami County.
Those parents told WHIO they were angered to learn about allegations of sexual misconduct involving a district employee in a video on social media before they heard about it from the district.
Last week, Bethel Schools’ superintendent said he put a district employee on leave due to the allegations.
>> RELATED: Deputies: Bethel Local Schools staff member on leave following citizens group video
The I-Team found the video, which we are not showing, and it appears to be a sting operation from a group called “Dads Against Predators,” or “DAP.” That group claims the school worker thought he was talking to a 13-year-old girl and getting ready to meet her for sex. Instead, the citizens group said the worker was unknowingly communicating with them. DAP is known for posing as children online, trying to lure people they call sexual predators, then recording and posting confrontations with the people who show up.
That video was posted to YouTube on March 20.
Miami County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Steve Lord told News Center 7 Friday the DAP group notified the school district last week about the video but did not contact law enforcement. After the district was notified about the video they contacted the sheriff’s office, Lord said.
The district sent a letter to parents notifying them about the investigation into the employee and saying he was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of that investigation last Wednesday, April 14.
A statement from Bethel Local Schools Superintendent, Justin Firks, said, “The Bethel Local School District took immediate and decisive action to contact law enforcement to open an investigation due to a complaint made to school officials alleging employee misconduct … it is our policy is to place the employee in question on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.”
This news organization is not naming the district employee since no formal charges have been filed yet.
Chief Deputy Lord said the Miami County Sheriff’s Office took an incident report at the school and seized some computer equipment the man had access to in his workplace.
The Huber Heights Police Division has also filed an incident report in connection with the investigation. That document obtained by the News Center 7 I-Team indicates that Huber Heights police have an investigation pending into “Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a Minor,” a fourth degree felony. The incident was reported to have occurred at a home on the 7300 block of Dial Drive.
Monday, the I-Team’s John Bedell spent his day looking into parents’ concerns and asked a legal expert about their worries. What he found was that schools are not legally obligated to tell parents this kind of information.
Legal expert, lawyer and Cedarville University professor Marc Clauson, said in cases like this here in Ohio, a school district’s legal obligation is to notify authorities. “(Ohio law) does require lots of different employees in public settings to report either to police or child protective services agencies anytime they think they have a reasonable belief – anytime a reasonable person would think that somebody has committed some type of abuse against a child,” Clauson said. “And they’re also required, if they’re lower employees, to report it to those agencies and also to their superiors.”
Clauson added, Ohio law limits the information district leaders can tell the public when it comes to allegations of abuse involving children – saying reports are supposed to be kept confidential.
“The law specifically says these records are to be kept confidential,” Clauson said. “They’re not public. And only if a court requires the records to be released to parents or the public in general could they be released.”
Clauson says the district could chose to release a general statement notifying the public about any investigation involving allegations of sexual misconduct involving children, but again, he said, the law limits what information districts can release in those instances. “They don’t name people,” Clauson said. “But they could state there is an investigation as a general rule.”
This is a developing story and we’ll continue to update this page as new details become available.