The indictment of a Belpre coach this week has parents concerned about student safety – and about the black eye the story may be giving the district.
It was the last week of school in Belpre and on Wednesday a Wood County, West Virginia grand jury indicted 23 year old Trent Jacob Stanley on 15 charges – 7 counts of sexual assault in the third degree and 8 counts of sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust. It has since come to light that the Belpre High School girls’ soccer coach and Belpre Junior High girls’ track coach is accused of an inappropriate relationship with at least one 14 year old girl under his supervision. The investigation is ongoing and charges are expected out of Washington County, as well. The Wood County charges stem from incidents that occurred between October and December of last year.
Belpre City Schools Superintendent Tony Dunn said he became aware of the situation in April.
“In April of 2018, a complaint of inappropriate conduct was received by Belpre City Schools against Mr. Stanley, a coach for the district, Dunn said in a statement released Thursday. “Mr. Stanley was suspended from all duties with the District and local law enforcement and Child Protective Services were notified. We have cooperated fully with their investigation and look forward to the resolution of this issue. Student safety is the District’s top priority. Thanks to parents, staff, and students, this matter was brought to light. We encourage everyone ‘if you see or know something, say something!’ Belpre City Schools has mandatory training and background checks in place to prevent such behavior and we will use all the information from this case to increase our efforts in preventing this type of conduct from happening in the future.”
Shortly after reporting on this matter, RCNN began receiving messages from Jeffrey Totten of Little Hocking, Ohio, which over the weekend progressed into threats that were reported to the local police.
Totten is the Belpre school’s visual communication teacher and has been accepted as the volunteer assistant football coach for Belpre High School. Totten is a Belpre alum who spent many years in California before returning in recent years to care for his ailing father and share his videography talents with his hometown.
In Torrance, California in August 2008, Totten was injured in a skirmish with police. Court records indicate he was charged and convicted of two counts of resisting an officer. The physical altercation began when Totten stormed into a police station with an angry complaint about an intersection. He filed a federal suit against the city of Torrance and the police department and ended up with a settlement of $120,000 – less than damages claimed.
As recently as 2016, Totten has been charged with domestic violence and disorderly conduct.
So, who is responsible for the decision to allow these characters to be in a position of authority over Belpre’s students and athletes?
Some parents are looking to Belpre High School Athletic Director Stephanie Evans for the answer.
In 2005, Evans lost her first year teaching job to what might have been nothing more than a vicious “rumor mill”. She was accused but not charged with an inappropriate relationship with a student. She went on to join the teaching staff at Belpre High School in 2009, rising up through the ranks to take the position of Athletic Director in 2013.
It is only fair to say that there is much disagreement amongst the Trimble witnesses as to what exactly happened – or didn’t happen there. When all was said and done, Evans admitted to inappropriate talk with students, but nothing more. She was not reinstated, but kept her teaching license. However, under the circumstances, the old allegations from 2005 are drawing new scrutiny from parents who are stunned by the revelations prompted by Stanley’s indictment. Parents are questioning the climate that has permitted Stanley and Totten to be in positions of authority over students in the classroom and on the field.
Dunn and parents appear to be on the same team with their stated goal: student safety. Even so, many parents have questions about the process for protecting students from predators and for informing guardians when a concern does arise.
The Belpre City Schools Board of Education will meet at 7 pm on Monday in the Stone Administration Building. The meeting is open to the public.
Editor’s Note: RCNN found no evidence of a conspiracy to hide this matter until after the levy vote. And, no reason to believe this would have influenced the outcome of the election.
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