The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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September 1, 2011

Fayette teacher arrested on sex assault charges

CHARLESTON — A Fayette County teacher was arrested Tuesday in Kanawha County and charged with sexual assault by a person in a position of trust and possession of child pornography. The West Virginia Department of Education said it is looking into the case and assured parents that student safety is their top priority.

A 14-year-old girl told State Police Tuesday that Maurice Grant White, 61, touched her inappropriately at his house on Church Drive in Rand and at her house in Fayette County, according to authorities. Police reported they subsequently obtained a search warrant for his house and found child pornography there. White was arrested Tuesday evening and remanded to South Central Regional Jail in lieu of a $100,000 bond.

In West Virginia, sexual assault by a person in a position of trust is a felony offense that can result in a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine of $500 to $5,000. According to the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services website, sexual assault in West Virginia “includes sexual intercourse and sexual intrusion.”

Sgt. Michael Baylous of the West Virginia State Police said charges will be filed in Fayette County as well, since one of the alleged instances of sexual assault occurred there.

Police said White was the girl’s fifth-grade teacher at Gauley Bridge Elementary School and then met her again after he retired from his 30-year teaching career and began substitute teaching at Valley High School.

Fayette County Superintendent Dwight Dials said he is not familiar with White, but that the man hasn’t subbed much in the county recently, perhaps a day and a half total for the year. He said he wanted to reassure parents that the case is being handled with the interests of students in mind.

“We will not abridge his rights to privacy and due process, but at the same time, we will fulfill our responsibility to our children,” said Dials.

State Board of Education spokesperson Liza Cordeiro said the state has a “zero-tolerance policy” when it comes to any inappropriate contact between teachers and students.

“In this case, we were notified, and we acted immediately. Our No. 1 concern is the health and safety of our students,” she said.

Along with Dials, she said parents should understand the board takes such allegations “very seriously.”

According to Cordeiro, a group called the Commission for Professional Teaching Standards is empowered to act on the license and certification status of teachers in the state. This is a 21-member council “representing the major constituents within the educational community,” according to the group’s website.

Once that group looks into the case, they will make a recommendation to the state board on whether to suspend White’s license, pull his certification, or enact any number of other consequences. Cordeiro said this process usually happens after the criminal investigation but there could be consequences even if the teacher is not found guilty in a court of law.

Sgt. Baylous said it’s possible more victims are out there and encouraged them to contact Sgt. Jay D. Perry, the investigating officer, at 304-949-3136. He said it’s important, despite the difficulty such a decision poses to victims.

“If there’s a victim of sexual abuse out there, the first step toward recovery is coming forward and letting the authorities know about it,” said Baylous. “We’ll be sensitive to their needs and issues, but that is the first step down that road to recovery and closure.”

—E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com

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