An Ohio special education teacher turned herself into authorities on Tuesday after a grand jury indicted her on third degree felony sexual misconduct charges.
Jennifer Walsh, 26, an intervention specialist at Sycamore High School, was charged with two counts of sexual battery on Monday. Allegedly, from May to August, the teacher had a three-month fling with a 17-year-old female student enrolled at the campus.
Officials at the suburban Cincinnati high school alerted families about Walsh’s indictment and subsequent arrest. Previously, administrators at the Sycamore Community Schools described the “reported allegations” against the teacher as “shocking” and “upsetting” in an email to parents, according to WXIX.
Although Walsh was a special education teacher, school district spokeswoman Mallory Bonbright told WCPO the purported victim was not a student with disabilities. How the teacher hooked up inappropriately with the 17-year-old has not been disclosed.
Sycamore Community Schools and the Montgomery Police Department opened their investigations into the matter on October 16 after an improper teacher-student sexual relationship complaint came through the Hamilton County Job and Family Services department.
As part of their probe, Montgomery police seized Walsh’s computer, cell phone, and personal documents. The resulting police report indicated five witnesses came forward about the sexual battery charges. One of them was another teenager. Detectives believed, though, that the sexual misconduct was an “isolated incident” and no other high school students were involved. Additionally, officers said the relationship took place off campus.
Walsh resigned on October 19, three days after authorities opened their investigations; the school board accepted her resignation in a special meeting held on October 21. However, she had been on paid, personal leave since mid-September.
According to the school district, Walsh joined Sycamore Community Schools in May 2014 as a substitute educational assistant. In 2015, she signed a contract as a long-term substitute teacher before becoming a full-time intervention specialist. A former local college Lacrosse player, Walsh also coached the high school’s junior varsity girls’ Lacrosse team.
The now ex-special education teacher also received high marks and superlative reviews in her school district employee evaluations. Her superiors said Walsh “made a positive impact and clear effort to build relationships with all students in the class and service their academic needs as they arise,” according to WCPO.
Sycamore Community Schools officials said they did not release any information about the identity of the alleged 17-year-old victim because of student privacy laws which limit what a school district can discuss publicly. However, they expressed their continued cooperation with Montgomery police in this investigation.
Reportedly, Walsh had no prior criminal record. On Tuesday, she posted $100 bail, reflecting 10 percent of her $1,000 bond, and she was released from the Hamilton County Jail.
Brian Gregg with Hamilton County Job and Family Services told WXIX that, if she is found guilty of the sexual battery charges, Walsh will be placed on the state’s child abuse registry. He said Ohio education officials also will report her conviction to the U.S. Department of Education.
Sexual battery is also known as sexual assault or rape. If convicted, Walsh may face one to five years in prison, according to Ohio state law.