OH school workers on leave after rape-case charges
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio school superintendent and two other employees have been placed on leave after they were charged following an investigation prompted by the rape of a 16-year-old girl by two high school football players, school officials said Tuesday.
The Steubenville school board did not address the allegations against the employees and referred all questions to the state attorney general, who is leading the investigation.
The employees were placed on leave at an emergency board meeting Monday and a former superintendent was tapped to lead the district temporarily, the board said in a statement.
“Our primary focus is on making sure the School District is able to conduct the business of educating our students,” the board said.
A grand jury on Monday charged superintendent Mike McVey and three others with lying or failing to report possible child abuse after an investigation prompted by the rape of the West Virginia girl following an alcohol-fueled party in August 2012.
Also charged Monday were football team strength coach Seth Fluharty, volunteer football coach Matthew Belardine and elementary school principal Lynnett Gorman. All four are due in court Dec. 6.
McVey, Fluharty and Gorman were placed on leave. Belardine is not a school employee.
The investigation included crimes committed in connection with the case against two members of the celebrated Steubenville High School football team as well as a separate alleged rape that happened in April 2012, four months before the assault that drew nationwide attention over demands that prosecutors should have charged more players.
McVey’s charges include felony counts of obstructing justice and tampering with evidence and a misdemeanor charge alleging he made a false statement in April 2012. Messages were left with McVey’s attorney Tuesday after he didn’t return messages Monday.
Belardine, whose house authorities said was the scene of the underage drinking party that preceded the rape last summer, faces several misdemeanor charges, including making a false statement and contributing to underage alcohol consumption. In a statement to The Associated Press, defense attorneys Brian Duncan and Adam Nemann, who previously represented one of the football players, called the charges against Belardine unsubstantiated and said he will plead not guilty.
Fluharty was charged with failing to report possible child abuse in August 2012. Columbus attorney Tom Tyack said he had been contacted to represent Fluharty but could not comment.
Gorman is charged with failing to report possible child abuse in April 2012. Her attorney, Stephen LaMatrice, said she will plead not guilty. The charge isn’t connected to the football players’ case, LaMatrice said, but declined to elaborate.
State law in Ohio requires a lengthy list of public and private workers — including school administrators, teachers and employees — to immediately report suspected cases of abuse or neglect.
“If you’re covered, you have to know what the law says and do what it says,” said Hollie Reedy, chief legal counsel for the Ohio School Boards Association.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the grand jury’s creation March 17, the day a judge convicted Ma’Lik Richmond and Trent Mays of digitally penetrating the girl.
Associated Press writers Thomas J. Sheeran in Cleveland and John Seewer in Toledo contributed to this report. Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.