Westridge Middle School employee suspended amid sexual misconduct investigation

Employee accused of grabbing several students

An interim dean at Westridge Middle School has been suspended amid allegations that he inappropriately touched students.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Orange County Sheriff's Office is investigating allegations that a Westridge Middle School employee multiple students.

Parents received a recorded call Monday informing them that an employee was suspended with pay pending an investigation of inappropriate conduct. According to that call, school officials are working with law enforcement officials.

"Please know we take all allegations seriously,” Westridge Middle School Principal Matt Turner said in the call.

Listen to the call parents received below.

A spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office said there is an active criminal investigation of a Westridge employee, who they initially identified as an acting dean, accused of lewd molestation of multiple students in incidents that are alleged to have occurred in the last few months.

According to the Sheriff's Office incident report, a complaint was filed Friday after several male students reported the teacher had touched their genitalia or offered to pay them to see their genitalia.

One alleged victim told investigators they were walking back to a portable classroom for lunch on April 18 when the employee grabbed them over his pants and said "Damn, you are packing," according to the incident report.

Deputies said another incident is alleged to have occurred April 21 when the employee picked up students after church and brought them to his Apopka home to play video games. While one of the boys was playing video games, the teacher grabbed his crotch and the student said he was not comfortable with that but the employee would not let go, according to the incident report.

Deputies said another student recorded audio of the incident during which the victim can be heard screaming when the employee would not let go.

The students told deputies they came forward about the allegations on May 8 after one of the victims said he learned the employee may have been molested as a child. The student thought "that (the teacher's) action upon him may have be a microcosm of some greater acts of sexual assault," according to the report.

Officials with the Sheriff's Office said the employee has not been arrested and detectives are actively investigating the allegations.

Deputies say one student claimed he never reported the accusations sooner because the employee would frequently buy him lunch and helped support him at school.

Due to the age of the boys involved, the Florida Department of Children and Families was notified.

Many parents outside of Westridge Middle School told us Wednesday they're concerned.

"It’s hard to trust the people," said Damaris Martinez.  "It’s scary because you trust the people here when you go to work and you just don’t know."

News 6 has asked Orange County School District officials for more information, including the employee's personnel file.

Check back for updates on this developing story. 

About the Authors:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.