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The 2015 Ohio “principal of the year” has been indicted on sex charges stemming from alleged relationships with students.
On Friday, a grand jury issued a summons to Chillicothe High School Principal Jeffrey Fisher, charging him with seven counts of sexual battery. The charges relate to two students — then 16 and 17 — who say the teacher had inappropriate contact with them. County Prosecutor Matt Schmidt told the Chillicothe Gazette that he didn’t want to get into the specifics of the charges, but the paper noted that sexual battery charges “include allegations of sexual intercourse.”
The investigation into Fisher began after an Aug. 16 meeting where school officials were informed of the allegations by the local department of family services.
In a statement to the Gazette, Fisher’s attorney wrote, “We’ve been aware of these accusations for years, and we’ll be entering a not guilty plea.” He also asked for information from the public that might help exonerate the 35-year-old principal.
Schmidt says the relationships occurred during the 2009-10 and 2011-12 school years and that “certainly with at least one victim, phone records will show substantial telephone and text contact.”
On Friday, Superintendent Jon Saxton sent a letter to parents explaining the situation and saying that as soon as the allegations arose, Fisher was “reassigned” to work from home. He closed by saying it would be inappropriate to discuss the matter further, citing the ongoing case.
Fisher has reportedly been on Saxton’s radar for quite some time, and the superintendent has had multiple conversations with the principal about his behavior. In September 2015, the Chillicothe Gazette found that Saxton laid out a list of complaints, saying Fisher’s social media behavior may be crossing the line. In one letter, the superintendent wrote, “In our conversation, you did not seem to understand the importance of separating yourself from relationships with students via messaging and texts.”
A student allegedly told a member of the staff this year about the allegations, and the district released a screenshot of a text conversation in which one possible victim said she retained a lawyer to speak for her. It’s unclear who the parties in the message were, but one wrote, “She could hardly talk to me from crying and saying it’s been seven years trying to get over this.”
Although Fisher has taken down all his social media profiles, he previously had some eyebrow-raising interactions, the Gazette reported. On Twitter, he reportedly liked a former student’s post about turning 21 and being “sloshed.” On another occasion, he told a student that she was a “10/10," according to the Gazette.
He is scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 21. His attorney says he will plead not guilty.