SOLON, Ohio (WOIO) - An outpouring of emotion from two women who describe sexual abuse by a former Solon High School band director. 19 News first reported these allegations back in June, but on Tuesday some of the victims shared their stories for the first time.
They were very nervous to come forward, so 19 News agreed to conceal their identities. Both women worked closely with the band director as student teachers. Now, years later they are sharing their experiences with a man who they at one point deeply respected. A man who is now accused of betraying their trust and the trust of many other young women.
“I guess the hardest thing about this is, I’m heartbroken,” one woman said. “Like, I feel like I’m experiencing grief because this person that I looked up to and I let mentor me and really shape the way I do my job as an educator is someone who is totally untrustworthy and just a sick person.”
A former Solon City Schools band director has been accused of inappropriate contact with multiple students. A 19 News investigation found this is not the first time he has been accused of something like this.
“He ran a great program and it’s such an absolute shame and heartbreak that he is the way that he is, you know? So yeah, I am hopeful that justice is served,” she said.
19 News is not naming the band director because he has not been charged with any crime, but Solon Police confirmed they are investigating. Recently, several Solon High School graduates posted publicly on Facebook about their experiences with this educator, including one woman who shared her story of being sexually assaulted when she was in the 8th grade.
“That’s when I realized that I was also a victim, and I know that sounds so insane,” she said. “I’m 30 years old, like, I should know, but it was one of those things that I didn’t realize that it was happening to other people so I didn’t realize what kind of monster I was dealing with here.”
19 News spoke with one woman who wanted to remain anonymous. She said this awful chapter of her life started to unfold the summer after her sophomore year of college. She worked with the former band director at Solon’s band camp. A few years later, she became his student teacher.
“He actually commented on my breasts and said that I was well developed and asked when I developed and tried to mask it like he was asking about when his daughter - I mean his daughter was young at the time - when she would be developing,” the woman recalled. “At the time I was like, this is weird, but I wasn’t like completely disgusted, because I was so young. I mean, I was only 22 and this was someone that I really looked up to, and I really trusted so I didn’t want to believe that this was what was actually happening.”
She said as time went on, the band director’s behavior escalated. He started sending her inappropriate messages on Facebook and Snapchat.
“He came on a lot stronger when he messaged me on that so much, so I had to delete comments because I was so concerned my significant other at the time would see them and think I was involved in something I was not involved in,” she said.
This woman is not alone. 19 News spoke with another woman who started working with him at the band camp when she was 19. She went on to work as a student teacher for him in 2016.
“There were a couple times where it was like 12:30 at night and he would send me Facebook messages and I would think this is kind of weird,” she said. “You’re married, you have kids, what are you doing? But also, I need you to sign off on my graduation forms, so I’m just gonna continue to communicate as a way to get through the program.”
She said once she started to read some of the stories of abuse from students, she felt heartbroken and blamed herself for not recognizing the behavior. She said she realized he was using his position of power as a band director to deliberately prey on female students.
The Solon school district sent out an email saying they recently became aware of new allegations against this teacher. The letter goes on to say that similar allegations were made more than two years ago against this same teacher. The district says they investigated and reported them to the proper state and local authorities. During the investigation, the teacher was removed from the classroom.
We reached out to the Solon Police Department for an update on the investigation, but so far, we have not heard back. Both women said the only positive thing to come out of this experience is that now as educators they can spot that predatory behavior, so they feel better equipped to protect their own students.