Gym teacher accused of sexually abusing student
A fired gym teacher who is accused of sexually abusing a Newport Intermediate school girl in October was previously accused of “conduct unbecoming” at a Boone County middle school.
Eric Herald was fired Friday after he was indicted with felony sex abuse of a girl younger than 12.
Newport Police Chief Tom Collins said police contacted Herald’s attorney on Friday. Herald was booked into the Campbell County jail on a $50,000 bond at about noon.
The grand jury indicted him Thursday. Herald, 51, was a physical education teacher at Newport Intermediate School, hired in November 2013. He’d been a substitute teacher for Newport Independent Schools since 2011.
Earlier in 2011 he’d resigned from Boone County Schools during a disciplinary hearing in which he was accused of “conduct unbecoming” at R.A. Jones Middle School, where he apparently cut hair, according to the district’s spokeswoman, Barbara Brady. Herald was a teacher at the school from 2005-2011 when he resigned, she said.
Brady said Herald was disciplined for the hair-cutting incident but resigned before a district hearing was held.
Newport Independent Schools Superintendent Kelly Middleton said a background check was performed on Herald before he was hired as the Newport Intermediate School gym teacher. The school has students from third through fifth grade.
Middleton said that the principal who hired Herald, Doug Cotton, who no longer is with the school, interviewed a handful of applicants for the physical education position.
The hiring process includes checking references and the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board website.
“It came up clean,” said Middleton. “There’s nothing flagged.
“Do I wish the principal had called more people? Yes, I do wish he had.”
However, in a section that the school principal would not have immediate access to, the “conduct unbecoming” allegation shows up.
“I’m sorry for the family. I’m sorry for the kid,” Middleton said at a news conference Friday morning. “I’m angry. All these emotions – they’re kind of fresh.”
Herald allegedly made unwanted sexual contact with a student at Newport Intermediate School on Oct. 28, according to the indictment. Campbell County Commonwealth’s Attorney Michelle Snodgrass would not provide details.
School officials said Herald was removed from school immediately after police notified them of the allegations and was fired Friday after the superintendent was notified that the indictment “was official.”
“Why did I fire him? Because he was indicted,” Middleton said. “Nothing … haunts me more than a child’s safety being compromised.”
Middleton also refused to go into greater detail about the allegations, simply referring to the incident as “inappropriate conduct with a student,” because, he said, the investigation is ongoing.
When he was notified by police of the accusation against Herald, Middleton said, he was put on indefinite administrative leave.
“I looked at him point blank, and I told him that if he’s indicted, as soon as he’s indicted, I would terminate him.”
Middleton said he and current Newport Intermediate School principal Kyle Niederman cooperated fully with the police investigation – mainly by “staying out of their way.” He said the teacher’s email account with the school and an iPad were confiscated. There was no immediate indication the teacher had tried to contact the student, however, he said.
Collins said the school officials provided access to everything investigators needed.
Niederman said he took a few calls from parents Friday morning after they heard that Herald was indicted.
“They are concerned, just as I am concerned,” Niederman said. “I don’t blame them.”
Newport police declined comment. An officer said they are still investigating and need to talk to “a few more people” before elaborating on the incident.