SALEM - A Salem High School social studies teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into allegations made by some students last week, Superintendent Tom Bratten said.
The superintendent was contacted Wednesday and said he couldn't go into detail about the allegations.
Salem Police Det. Dave Talbert also couldn't go into detail, but said by phone that he was investigating a possible situation involving a female student and male teacher related to an incident that occurred on March 18, a day that students were out of school for a snow day.
He said he received a tip from the parent of one of the student's friends on March 22 and contacted both the school and Children Services. The female student is a 17-year-old junior, Talbert confirmed.
He said the investigation is in the preliminary stage. At this time, he's "conducting interviews, talking to witnesses and gathering information."
Bratten said the students approached Salem High School Principal Dr. Joe Shivers with the allegations on March 21 and he in turn contacted Bratten, who explained the district has protocols in place that must be followed.
That evening, Bratten said he called the teacher and told him there were "allegations of a serious nature" and he had to be put on paid administrative leave.
District officials started investigating, talking to students and legal counsel. He said the police contacted the district the next day. When asked why the district didn't contact the police, he said they were following their protocol.
"When gathering information, you don't just jump to conclusions," he said.
Whenever any type of allegations are made, he said their protocol is to place the employee on paid administrative leave, then conduct an investigation. He explained that the reason behind paid administrative leave is the fact if a situation turns out to be true and if a teacher has been continuing to teach, then students have been placed at risk. With a teacher on leave, they can investigate without that risk. The safety of the students is their first concern, he said.
"We're trying to make sure we do what we need to do by the letter of the law," Bratten said.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org