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The Solon Police Department has started an investigation into a former employee of Solon High School and the school district has informed families that allegations of “inappropriate contact between a former teacher and student” have surfaced.

A former band director in the school district resigned June 12, 2018, following an investigation that lasted at least 10 weeks, according to Fred Bolden, acting superintendent pro tempore.

He said the district’s letter to families was prompted by a public Facebook post by Ariana Nicole Battiste, who said her eighth-grade band teacher sexually assaulted her in 2010, according to a June 4 post on The Solon Soundboard, a public Facebook group. She did not name the teacher and Bolden would not confirm the identity of the teacher.

“My understanding is her story is the thing that sparked other people to come forward and tell their stories,” Bolden told the CJN June 10. “I know we’ve dealt with several girls so far from our letter that we sent out and through social media content. … We’ve been trying to encourage as many girls as possible to come forward so that we can help get them to the proper authorities so they can report their stories.”

Multiple postings on The Solon Soundboard have identified the person, including postings by people claiming to have received inappropriate messages from him. The June 7 letter to Solon families did not identify the teacher.

The district’s letter read: “In recent days we have learned about new allegations of inappropriate contact between a former teacher and student. These allegations are deeply troubling. School should be a safe space and we take seriously our responsibility to students’ physical and emotional well-being.”

The district offered to speak with “affected individuals,” obtain written statements and advised them to contact the Ohio Department of Education and the Solon Police Department.

“When allegations were raised more than two years ago involving the teacher in question, the district promptly investigated the allegations and fulfilled its responsibilities by reporting to the proper state and local authorities,” the letter stated. “These reports are confidential. During the investigation, the teacher was removed from the classroom and direct contact with students. The actions taken at that time were solely focused on ensuring student safety.

“As we continue to learn more in real time – just as many of you are from public postings on social media platforms – we pledge to work with and connect any former students who bring these matters to our attention to the proper authorities.”

Lt. Jamey Hofmann told the CJN June 9 police investigated and reviewed a previous incident involving the former Solon High School employee. Hofmann said that incident was “totally different than what we’re looking at here.”

Hofmann said that previous incident was not a “criminal act.”

Bethany Davis, a Solon High School alumnus, posted a message on The Solon Soundboard. She did not identify the teacher by name.

“I’m the Solon student who reported my experiences in 2018,” she wrote June 7. “I started a private group message for other victims who plan to come forward so that we can have a safe and private space to support each other through the process.”

Reached by Facebook message, Davis told the CJN June 9 she was not yet ready to speak with the media.

The minutes of a special school board meeting June 13, 2018, involving the individual, read, “Mrs. (Margo) Morrow (then-Solon School board member) moved that the Board of Education of the Solon School District recess into executive session for the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion, or compensation of public employees or regulated individuals, or the investigation of charges or complaints against a public employee or regulated individual unless such person requests a public hearing; and specialized details of security arrangements where disclosure of the matters discussed might reveal information that could be used for the purpose of committing, or avoiding prosecution for a violation of the law.”

Following executive session, Morrow made a motion to adopt a resolution “to approve the resignation ... effective Aug. 31, 2018, and to authorize and direct the superintendent to execute, on behalf of the board, an employment and release agreement ... resolving all separation and employment matters as noted in Exhibit A.”

The Ohio Department of Education would not confirm whether it has an open investigation of a former Solon teacher.

“Pursuant to (Ohio Revised Code) 3319.311, we can’t confirm or deny that we have an open investigation or have received a referral,” Mandy Minick, deputy director of communications/press secretary of the Ohio Department of Education, wrote to the CJN June 9.

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