A Madison-Plains substitute, recently accused of “inappropriately touching” two middle school girls, has resigned from the assistant coaching position he also held.
A special meeting regarding the employment of the accused was called by the Madison-Plains School District on Thursday evening.
After an executive session lasting well over an hour, the board reported their acceptance of the resignation of accused district employee, Travis O’Connor, to the crowd of concerned parents, students, faculty, and community members.
O’Connor who has denied any wrongdoing through the entire investigation, reminded the board that neither Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin nor Madison County Children’s Services has pursued any criminal charges in the matter, it was related.
“This is an amicable parting of ways between Madison-Plains and Mr. O’Connor. There is no animosity that we hold towards him … and we thank him for his service to this point, but we have come to the point where we are parting ways,” said school district superintendent Tim Detwiller.
The allegations were first brought to the attention of Detwiller on the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 26.
O’Connor was removed from the substitute teacher pool that afternoon pending investigation of the incident, but remained on as coach for that Friday’s and Saturday’s basketball games.
After concluding the in-house investigation and report, instructions were given by Detwiller to high school principal, Matt Unger, to notify the parents of the alleged victims on Saturday morning.
Contact was successfully made with a parent of one of the girls. A message was left with a parent of the other.
At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Unger filed his report with Children’s Services, which was closed.
The matter was automatically referred to the Madison County Sheriff’s Department. A deputy arrived to take a report from Unger at 2:45 p.m.
Unger called Children’s Services again on Monday morning at 8:15 a.m. to verify receipt of his initial report.
At 9 a.m. Monday, a sheriff deputy arrived to obtain the investigation report compiled by Unger.
Later that morning, a third girl came forward as witness to O’Connor’s alleged activities, with information that Detwiller referred to as “more concerning” than what was alleged by the first two girls.
O’Connor was suspended (placed on paid administrative leave) from any further coaching responsibilities as a result that same day.
At 3:30 p.m. that same Monday, a call was placed by the school to start the parent notification process regarding the incident.
Children’s Services informed Detwiller and Unger that there was insufficient information to warrant an investigation on Wednesday, Jan. 31.
Madison County Sheriff’s Department informed Detwiller that no criminal charges would be filed in the matter on Thursday, Feb. 1.
For some parents, the response of school administration and board was lackadaisical at best — a few even questioning how O’Connor could have been hired to begin with.
Corey Jeffers was one such parent.
“When you hear the word felon, or of a felony gun charge, or you hear of stalking and menacing, and marijuana charges and DUI, does that speak to you as an educator or as somebody you want to lead your kids as a coach?” he asked.
“My biggest problem with what happened is in the way it was handled,” Jeffers said, referring to what he considered as Detwiller passing off his investigation responsibilities to Unger. “The man with the reins needs to be there conducting these interviews, he needs to be there hearing what these kids have to say, because he won’t make the wrong decision to let this man coach basketball all weekend.”
Jeffers also stated that O’Connor was known to call female students and faculty “honey,” “sweetie,” and “baby,” as well as wink at them.
The school board maintains that O’Connor, as with all district substitutes, is fully licensed by the State of Ohio.
Board member, Kelly Cooley, believes that the board acted appropriately in the matter, and that television news media may have fomented public reaction.
“I feel Channel 6 misled the public into believing that no action was taken on behalf of the school,” she said. “And that just was not true.”
The board must now determine if there is an existing policy regarding an employee’s ability to coach while under possible criminal investigation, and what exactly should be the process for notifying parents in a timely manner.
Reach Andrew Garrett at 740-852-1616, ext. 1616.