SOMERSWORTH, N.H. — A teacher in New Hampshire is under investigation after accusations of inappropriately touching a student.
The superintendent said that because the case is a personnel matter, she can’t comment or confirm whether the teacher is still in the classroom at Somersworth High School. But the father of the girl involved said he’s glad the school and police acted as quickly as they did.
“We responded to a call of an incident at the school on Jan. 27 shortly after school ended about an alleged incident between a male teacher and a juvenile female student,” said Capt. David Kretschmar. “We’re currently investigating that as a criminal event.”
News 9 spoke to a man who said he’s the father of the 15-year-old girl involved.
“One of her teachers at the school was touching her inappropriately by putting his arms around her,” said the man, who did not want to be identified.
He said his daughter told him she left when the teacher answered a phone call.
“The guidance counselor saw her walking down the hall and knew something was wrong,” he said. “He pulled her into his office and asked what was going on, and she told him, and then the guidance counselor told the police officer on duty.”
He said his daughter is still shaken up, and he encourages any students in similar circumstances to tell someone.
Police said it’s an active investigation, and the teacher has not been charged.
School officials said that while they can’t say whether the teacher has been suspended, they want to assure parents that students are safe.
DUDLEY, Mass. — A Team 5 Investigation uncovered teachers taking sexual advantage of students and now a police chief is speaking out about his frustration with Massachusetts law allowing many of those teachers to escape criminal prosecution.
Team 5’s Kathy Curran has more on why efforts to change that have gone nowhere on Beacon Hill for years.
“If you’re in a position such as mine and you get presented with something that should be changed, I feel an obligation to try and change it and try to protect the victims in these cases,” said Dudley Police Chief Steve Wojnar.
Wojnar is calling for Beacon Hill lawmakers to take action after Team 5 Investigates exposed how many teachers caught in sex scandals with their students can’t be prosecuted if the student is 16 years old, or older.
“It’s extremely frustrating. If you’re in a position of authority over minors under the age of 18, you certainly have a direct amount of responsibility and impact on their future, in some way, shape or form, so you have to refrain from any of these types of relationships,” he said.
In 2004, the Dudley Police Department began an investigation into 31-year old Amber Jennings, an English teacher at Shepard Hill Regional High School who had an alleged sexual relationship with a 16-year-old former student.
Wojnar says prosecutors couldn’t charge her with sexual assault because the law doesn’t prohibit sexual relationships between students and teachers.
“When you found out did you just shake your head?” asked Team 5 Investigates’ Curran.
“Yes, and this is the reason why I’ve been trying to work on something for almost eight-10 years now because something really needs to change in that vein,” said Wojnar.
Wojnar is backing legislation introduced by Sen. Richard Moore of Uxbridge that’s intended to bring Massachusetts in line with other states, making it a crime for people in positions of authority to misuse their authority for sexual purposes.
“The legislation basically covers anybody, either a private or public institution of any type, it could be teachers, social workers, it’s anybody in a position of authority over minors,” Wojnar explained.
One example is Leominster High School teacher Molly Crane who surrendered her teaching license after records showed she allegedly engaged in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student. She even went as far as giving the student a cellphone and setting up a Facebook page so she could communicate in secret, forcing the student to continue the relationship through intimidation and coercion.
Crane couldn’t be criminally charged either and she denies the allegations.
“Do you think it should be a crime if a teacher uses his or her position to take advantage of a student?” asked Curran.
“Absolutely, it’s very troubling when anybody takes advantage of their relationship with students to take advantage of those students,” said Mitchell Chester, commissioner of the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
But attorney Alice Peisch, chair of the Legislature’s joint committee on education told Team 5 Investigates she isn’t so sure. “Whether or not losing one’s job is a sufficient deterrent to that activity is something I’d have to give more consideration to,” said Peisch.
“Why do you think this legislation hasn’t been passed?” asked Curran.
“I have no idea. I’d be willing to talk to anybody who has a problem or issue with it in any way, shape or form,” said Wojnar.
The legislation won’t be taken up by the judiciary committee at the earliest until March. Critics tell Team 5 they believe too many defense attorneys in the Legislature are preventing it from passing.
LANCASTER, Mass. — A longtime Lancaster pastor has been put on administrative leave following accusations of sexual misconduct with a minor 40 years ago, church officials said.
Edward P. Lettic, of the Immaculate Conception Parish, was placed on leave after a victim recently came forward with a “credible allegation,” the Worcester Diocese said in a statement.
It is the “first and only” allegation of misconduct involving Lettic that the diocese has received, according to the statement. Lettic has been a priest since 1973.
Lettic has been pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Lancaster since 1993 and
was serving at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Worcester at the time of the alleged misconduct. Lettic has also served at churches in East Douglas and Auburn.
“Because of the serious nature of the allegation, and consistent with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, I must relieve Father Lettic of his duties as pastor of the parish and remove his faculties as a priest,” Rev. Robert J. McManus, bishop of Worcester, said at a mass at the parish.
“I truly realize that this news is a shock for you as it has been for me,” McManus said.
“I ask that you join me in prayer for the parish community, as well as for those who have been hurt in any way by sexual misconduct. I also ask that you keep Father Lettic in your prayers.”
The diocese said an investigation is underway.
“A canonical process has begun including a report of the allegation to the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith in Rome,” according to a statement. “The result of that canonical process, if found guilty of the allegation, could include removal from the clerical state or a sanction such as a life of prayer and penance.”
BORDEN, Ind. — A Massachusetts man has been arrested in Indiana on charges of sexual misconduct with a minor and child solicitation following a four-year investigation, authorities said.
David M. Walsh, 50, of Devens, was taken into custody Friday nearly four years after he allegedly had sex with a 14-year-old girl he met online, Indiana State Police said in a statement. They said Walsh was able to avoid police using an alias and fake address.
Earlier this month police said they received a tip that Walsh would be in Indiana to meet with the now-18-year-old victim and her family. Police located Walsh in Borden, Ind., on Friday.
Police believe there may be additional victims and are asking anyone who has come in contact with Walsh online or in person to call them at 812-246-5424.
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