An elementary school principal shot himself on Friday at his Hanford-area California home after being under suspicion for having sexual activity with a young female student.
According to the Fresno Bee, when Fresno county sheriff detectives showed up to 42-year-old Lance Clement’s home around 7:30 a.m. to serve him with a search warrant, they heard the gunshot that ended his life. At this point, the incident is being investigated as a suicide by the Kings County coroner who is assigned to determine the cause of Clement’s death.
Clement was principal of Orange Center Elementary and is also Orange Center’s superintendent of schools. The elementary school consists of 350 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims only announced that Clement was being investigated a few hours after he killed himself. Up until then, the investigation was under wraps. Last week, an employee of the school notified authorities the day after he saw Clement with a young girl in his office after school with the lights off. The witness claims that he reported the incident because “he trusted his gut.”
After investigators interviewed Clement and the young female student, there was no apparent evidence of impropriety, but “it raised some red flags,” said Mims. On Tuesday, Fresno County sex-crime detectives decided to interview 20 more girls, mostly fifth graders, who had visited his office. It was then that they discovered Clement allegedly had participated in inappropriate gift-giving. According to Mims, in one instance, Clement’s actions “may have risen to a sexual battery, or possibly lewd and lascivious acts involving someone under 14.” She added, “Definitely, unethical behavior took place.”
Mims said that detectives had searched Clement’s computer in his office and that he had removed its hard drive, which sent off an “additional red flag.” School trustees took his keys, and he was placed on leave with pay on Wednesday. Detectives confiscated computers that were at Clement’s home, and the case will continue to be investigated, because “parents have a right to know” if their child was victimized by Clement.
Clement was well-liked by other teachers and, among his accomplishments, according to one former school board member, was his being “instrumental with the solar installation for the school district that saved a lot of money.”
Gus Amos, a board member of Armona School District opined, “He dazzled us with his knowledge, with his demeanor. He was great with kids. I don’t think anyone didn’t like Lance.”