Montgomery County Schools Investigated Principal/Student Relationship Back In 2011

9:28 PM, Jan 16, 2013   |    comments
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Troy, NC-- Montgomery County Schools investigated an anonymous rumor tip about the principal and student relationship in 2011 but did not report it to law enforcement.

News 2 first told you about the former Transportation Director from Montgomery County Schools, John Ward.

Read here: Former Prinicpal John Ward Arrested For Having Sex With Student

Ward confessed to having a relationship with a student when he was principal of Montgomery Learning Academy.

The student involved in the case gave birth to a child sometime after the relationship stated. The sheriff's office said they're waiting on a paternity test to see if Ward is the father.

News 2 also learned that Ward's wife works for the Montgomery County Department of Social Services. She has been suspended from work.

The school district told News 2 that they heard rumors about the relationship back in 2011.

The district got an anonymous tip that there was a relationship between the principal and a student. From there, they conducted their own investigation. The principal, student, and student's guardian were all interviewed separately. All three denied the relationship and that was the end of it.

Montgomery County Schools said because there was no indication of proof, they had no obligation to report it to law enforcement. They didn't suspend or remove the principal. In July 2012, John Ward was promoted to the district's Transportation Director.

In a news conference, Dr. Dale Ellis, the Montgomery County Superintendent said, "If we had any indication of wrong-doing at that point, obviously, that would have not happened. The second we heard this rumor resurface, we called him back in and investigated the situation. When we felt comfortable we had the information to substantiate anything, we immediately called the sheriff's department."

Lt. Kelley Howell with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office told News 2's Liz Crawford that the district should have reported the rumor to the sheriff's office. However, according to North Carolina law, it's not a crime that they didn't.

A principal has the civil obligation to report certain acts to law enforcement including indecent liberties with a minor. Click here to see the statute: Powers and duties of principal

The law doesn't say who should report to law enforcement if the principal is the offender.

Up until June of 2011, the principal could be charged with a misdemeanor for not notifying law enforcement. That charge is no longer on the books.

News 2 also discovered that this past July, lawmakers went back again and changed the law. The law used to require principals call law enforcement if they just had "reasonable belief" a crime was committed. Now, the law requires "personal knowledge or actual notice" a crime has occurred.

Montgomery County Schools sent News 2 this statement:

When emotions and anxiety run high, everyone has an opinion. However, the fact is, when we investigated this issue back in November, 2011, we did not have "personal knowledge, a reasonable belief, or actual notice from school personnel that an act had occurred ...", as General Statute 115C-288G reads. All we had was an anonymous rumor, denials from all parties involved and no reasonable belief that a crime had been committed.

Over the course of a school year, district personnel receive a multitude of complaints and allegations of employee wrong-doing. When we investigate allegations, if there is any indication that inappropriate behaviors have occurred, we always report that information to law enforcement immediately and take proper steps in our employee disciplinary procedures.

School officials and the sheriff have talked about how the Sheriff's Office doesn't have the manpower to run down every rumor. However, we take great care to investigate every issue and to respond to each allegation seriously and appropriately.

Darren Allen with the Montgomery County District Attorney's office could not comment on whether or not they will pursue charges against the district.

WFMY News 2, Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, Montgomery County Schools

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