School starts in just a couple weeks, which is causing some Mayfield families more anxiety than usual. A handful of parents are alleging that a high school teacher made lewd comments to their daughters. As our Megan Cruz tells us, that teacher may be back with the school this fall.
MAYFIELD, N.Y. -- "He should not be able to get away with it," said Susan Biggers.
Biggers' 13-year-old daughter says her Global Studies teacher spoke to her inappropriately last September. Now, almost a year later, she comes to the district's first 2011 board meeting Tuesday to make sure her daughter and others don't experience this again.
"I'm just asking if they're going to have to possibly run into the person in question," said Biggers.
Richard Ward hasn't been teaching since October. The district says he's on medical leave. But Biggers says he may be back this fall.
"I received word from the superintendent that he would be recommending Mr. Ward for a return to a classroom," she said.
Superintendent Williamsen, who declined to talk to us on camera, says Ward admitted to the board he made the comment. But Williamsen says the school's lawyers, the Fulton County District Attorney and the State Education Department have told him there isn't enough to terminate him since the comment alone doesn't qualify as either sexual harassment or endangering the welfare of a child.
"There had to be other solutions that wouldn't deprive him of a living, but would keep him away from children," Biggers said.
At Tuesday night's meeting, the board voted to create a new position, a grant writer and IT assistant who would work out of the area's BOCES building. Williamsen wouldn't say the position was created for Ward, but that it would be filled before the start of the school year by someone already on the payroll.
"I have to be happy with that solution because, legally, I know there aren't any others," Biggers said.
Since this incident became public, others have stepped forward alleging similar encounters. Like Christine Croft, who graduated from Mayfield High School in 2006.
"Inappropriate jokes, inappropriate tone, there'd be inappropriate touching of the shoulder," said Croft.
Now Williamsen says Ward has had his share of supporters, a number of his other former students have spoken on his behalf. But Biggers says his past shouldn't excuse him from the present.
"He was still a 57-year-old man, a 30 year teacher and should've known better," she said. "You don't make sexual comments to 13- and 14-year-old girls. You just don't do it."
Williamsen says he hopes to resolve this matter before the start of the school year on September 7th.