BCPS implements training to prevent sexual misconduct of employees

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By Tom Wilmoth

    Following two incidents last year at Jefferson Forest High School, and other recent cases at the county’s other high schools, Bedford County Public Schools has implemented training sessions this year to help prevent the sexual misconduct of teachers, coaches and other employees with students.
    Tim Parker, director of human resources for the school system, said the training came after the Department of Education suggested all public school systems take a look at their policies on that issue and prevention training for staff.
    The school system held its first training session on Aug. 14. More than 90 coaches, administrators,             athletic directors and other extra-curricular school sponsors attended the session, which included a presentation prepared by Nancy Claudio, athletic director at Jefferson Forest HS.
    Parker said the hope is to present the session to teachers throughout the school system during faculty meetings, as well.
    Information from the DOE, the Virginia High School League and a statewide AD committee was used to help prepare the presentation.
    Parker said the training began with coaches and sponsors because of the types of relationships they have with students that go beyond the classroom.
    Sexual misconduct between school staff and students has unfortunately been an issue that has been unfolding across the region in recent years, according to Ryan Edwards, public relations and policy coordinator with BCPS. Locally that has included:

George Weston Katze
    Last week a former Bedford County teacher and coach pleaded no contest in Lynchburg Circuit Court to charges he had a sexual relationship with a student from the Jefferson Forest High School.
    George Weston Katze, 24, was found guilty of one count of taking indecent liberties with a minor in a custodial relationship, a felony, and one count of having consensual sex with a minor over the age of 15, a misdemeanor.
    Katze was employed as a technology education teacher at JFHS from Aug. 11, 2011, until his resignation from his position on Jan. 18, 2012. He had also worked as a coach with the junior varsity football team and as an assistant coach on the varsity basketball team. Sentencing has been set for Oct. 26.

Joseph Clark
    A second incident involving a JF teacher occurred last spring during the school’s prom.
    According to Stephanie Ayers, chief assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Bedford County, Joseph Clark, then 28, took a student away from the prom without her parents’ permission. Allegedly the use of marijuana was also involved, Ayers said.
    Clark was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor. The case has been taken under advisement in Bedford County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court for 12 months. Clark, who Ayers said has moved out of the area, was told to not have any contact with the student. The charge could be dismissed.
    Clark had been employed as an English teacher with BCPS from August 2009 until his resignation in early May 2012.
Earnest Grubbs
    This past May, a Bedford County Grand jury indicted a former deputy with the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office on five charges of taking indecent liberties with a child in a custodial relationship.           Earnest Grubbs was indicted on the charges related to having a sexual relationship with a then 15-year-old Liberty High School student.
    Grubbs was serving as a school resource officer at LHS when the alleged charges occurred, according to court records. Grubbs admitted to investigators that his relationship with the girl had “gone too far,” according to court documents. Roanoke County Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Leach is serving as a special prosecutor in the case because Grubbs’ had worked for the BCSO.
    On October 19, 2011, Grubbs was arrested by the Virginia State Police on the child sex charges. Less than a month after his arrest, a 16-year-old Bedford County girl was reported missing. She was found safe two days later in Kentucky. She was located with Grubbs on Nov. 9.

Richard Witt
    A former Staunton River High School teacher and football coach, Richard Isaac Witt, was sentenced in 2011 in Bedford County Circuit Court to four years behind bars after pleading guilty in 2010 to 10 misdemeanor counts of having sexual contact with a minor.
    Two teenage girls were seduced by Witt, beginning in 2008. One girl attended William Byrd High School in Roanoke County and the other was a student at Staunton River High School. Witt had taught at Byrd before moving to SRHS.
    Both girls were 16 when the offenses occurred, but he had first met them when they were 15. Witt also was found guilty in Roanoke County on similar charges.

    About the incidents, Edwards said the school system does thorough background checks on employees, prior to them being hired. He said the goal of the training that has been implemented is to lessen the number of occurrences in future years.
    “We continue to do all that we can do to prevent these types of (incidents from occurring),” he said.