TALLMADGE, Ohio (WOIO) - A former Tallmadge Schools bus aide with a criminal history was indicted by a Summit County grand jury after police said he inappropriately touched five young girls on a bus.
Howard Franklin Jr., 31, was indicted on four counts of gross sexual imposition and five counts of attempted gross sexual imposition, according to Summit County Court of Common Pleas records.
The charges stem from several incidents that allegedly occurred in Sept. 2019.
Franklin is accused of touching five girls between the ages of six and nine on the “outside of their clothing.”
Police said the victims were all students and the alleged incidents happened on school bus.
Some of the victims were touched in their groin and buttocks area, according to police records.
Investigators said Franklin Jr. also let children “reach into his pocket and dig around” on at least two occasions, including one where they say the suspect showed a little girl a piece of candy, placed it into his pants pocket, and then "allowed [victim] to dig around in his pocket.”
19 News investigators found Franklin Jr. has a criminal history of theft and petty theft convictions in Summit County dating back at least five years.
In 2019, he was found guilty of stealing candy and other items from Dollar General in Monroe Falls.
In that case, a judge wrote that Franklin Jr. stated, “he will never stop stealing, can make tools to remove security devices, now knows how to make meth with is more profitable than theft, etc.”
Franklin Jr. was an employee of Petermann Bus, a transportation company the school district contracts with to provide transportation services.
According to Tallmadge City Schools Superintendent Jeff Ferguson, Petermann Bus was responsible for conducting a background check on Franklin Jr.
Ferguson confirmed the suspect was terminated from his position as a school bus aid in September.
In an e-mail to 19 News, Petermann Bus said that they have stringent guidelines and standards for employees.
“A complete background check was administered and at the time of his hire, the former monitor had no disqualifying events that would have prevented us from employing him,” Edward Flavin of Petermann Bus said of Franklin.
Tallmadge schools said they took immediate action when they learned of the accusations.
“In September, we were made of aware of potentially inappropriate behavior by this individual,” Ferguson said in a previous phone call. “We contacted Tallmadge Police and Children Services as part of our investigation.”
“Safety and well-being is a top priority for our students,” said Ferguson. “We are going to continue to work with police and parents to keep our students safe in our buildings and our buses.”
Franklin’s arraignment is set for March 20.