Jenison teacher on leave following misconduct allegations

JENISON, Mich. -- A teacher in the Jenison Public School system is on leave after authorities received a report about sexual misconduct allegations from several former students.

The incident occurred while the current Jenison teacher was employed by Fremont Public Schools teaching high school and coaching in the mid-1990s, according to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department.

The first victim of this incident came forward Jan. 26 and Ottawa County Sheriff's Captain Mark Bennett says the department immediately began working with Jenison Public Schools, Fremont area police and the victim to investigate the accusations.  Since then, seven former Fremont Schools' students, who are women now in their forties, are working with police and making misconduct accusations.

At this time, Bennett said that there are no victims in Ottawa County, only from prior incidents in Newaygo County. He adds their investigative team is several days from presenting their case to the county prosecutor for possible criminal charges.

Jenison Public Schools Superintendent Tom TenBrink sent a letter home to parents Tuesday morning. In it, he says that the district learned of the allegations Friday night, Jan. 26 and that they placed the teacher on administrative leave on Monday morning, Jan. 29.  TenBrink tells FOX 17 the teacher on leave formerly coached junior high teams in Jension Public Schools a long time ago, and this teacher will remain on leave throughout the investigation.

TenBrink also reiterates these allegations involve students in another district and not in the Jenison district.  He says they have not received any allegations from current or former Jenison students.

The Children's Advocacy Center of Kent County works with students and families to help build a healthy foundation of communication and safety at home. Sara Soehnel is their Kids Have Rights program manager, which teaches safety and how to speak out about abuse to children in kindergarten through fourth grade, including how abusers may manipulate kids and their families to try to keep abuse quiet.

"It’s really important for kids to hear more from their parents and caregivers than just, ‘if anyone touches you tell me,'" said Soehnel.

"They really need to hear, ‘I will believe you. I know what to do to help you.’ And for adolescents, to understand what a healthy relationship looks like, and what is not healthy in a relationship, and how they can always come forward and talk about what’s happening and for those relationships to be modeled."

Anyone with information is asked to call Ottawa County Sheriff's Department or Silent Observer at 1-877-88-SILENT.

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