District Reacts to Charges Against Former Teacher

by Emily Baird on September 14, 2010 at 6:03 am

The West Muskingum School District says it had previous issues with a former art teacher, but it had no idea he was engaging in sexual activities with two of its students. Andrew Hoffer Pled Guilty Monday to two felony, sexual battery charges.

"I really see this as a betrayal of what is sacred for educators everywhere, " says Superintendent Sharon Smith.

Smith says her district received some alarming information three days before the end of school last year.

"We had a parent that informed us that her daughter had reported there was some inappropriate conversations of a sexual nature that were occurring in Mr. Hoffer’s art classroom, " says Smith.

The district contacted the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office and began an investigation surrounding Hoffer. Smith says the district found the parent’s allegation to be true and notified Hoffer that it would begin proceedings of the termination of his contract. It also filed a misconduct report with the Ohio Department of Education to keep Hoffer’s teaching license from being renewed.

Hoffer then approached the Board of Education to submit his resignation June 4th.

Smith says when it comes to the vulnerability of students, drastic measures need to be taken.

"We do not tolerate offenses such as this by any of our employees. We have an expectation here that all employees in our district exhibit professionalism and appropriateness in all matters, " says Smith.

Smith says concerned were raised at the high school even before the initial investigation that led to Hoffer’s resignation.

"Possibly too much time being spent with a particular student. He had texted the student, and we asked him not to do that," says Smith.

That incident was reported back in December of 2008. Smith says Hoffer was also asked not to be alone with that student again or any other student. A letter of warning was put in his file too.

Smith says no other incidents were reported between that time and June of 2009. She says if she or the district had know that Hoffer was engaging in sexual activities with two of its students, especially on school property, if would have terminated the problem immediately.

"As educators, it is our duty to look at safety for kids first. Nurture kids. Help them achieve their highest potential, and this is a situation where someone is taking advantage of students, " says Smith.

Smith says the district is currently working with the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office in this case. Hoffer is currently being held in the Muskingum County Jail on a $100,000 bond.