Sparrows Point teacher charged with sex offenses

October 01, 1994|By Mary Maushard and Richard Irwin | Mary Maushard and Richard Irwin,Sun Staff Writers

A science teacher at Sparrows Point High School has been placed on administrative leave after being charged with child abuse and fourth-degree sex offenses for allegedly fondling two students during class.

Thomas Dale Cauffield, 35, of the 200 block of Maiden Choice Lane in Catonsville turned himself in to Baltimore County police Thursday and was charged with two counts of child abuse and two counts of fourth-degree sexual offense. He was released on $15,000 bail.

The charges stem from two incidents involving two 14-year-old girls in Mr. Cauffield's science classes. Both are in 10th grade. The teacher is alleged to have put his hands on the girls' breasts, outside their clothing, during class, police said.

Mr. Cauffield "denies any wrongdoing," said his attorney, Barton Sidle of Towson. "He's absolutely dumbfounded by these allegations."

Mr. Cauffield began teaching in the county this fall, but has taught for 10 years, most recently in Florida, said Mr. Sidle. He has no prior criminal record, the lawyer said.

In charging documents, the students allege that Mr. Cauffield had a habit of rubbing his chemistry students' backs, arms and shoulders when they raised their hands to answer questions.

On Sept. 19, and again on Sept. 22, he allegedly rubbed the backs of two female students, praising them verbally in class while his hands strayed to the sides of their breasts, the documents said.

One girl told another teacher. School officials notified the Department of Social Services and the police, who began an investigation. The other girl told a friend, and came forward after the first report.

The documents said Mr. Cauffield told detectives that he had no memory of such an incident. Later he said, "If I did it, I did not do it intentionally," and later denied touching the girls' breasts.

School officials yesterday declined to discuss the allegations. School system spokesman Charles Herndon did say that, "once an accusation comes to light, the teacher is immediately removed from the classroom. The teacher is put on administrative leave and remains on the payroll."

Mr. Herndon said allegations of sexual abuse arise "very, very infrequently" in county schools. "The teachers are made aware of what the policies are, what the rules are and what they can and cannot do."

The county School Board last spring adopted a policy forbidding dating and sexual relationships between students and all employees of the school system. That policy, adopted in reaction to sexual abuse cases in other county school systems, established procedures for reporting such incidents and for administering disciplinary action.

No trial date has been set for Mr. Cauffield. Mr. Sidle said he is undecided whether he will seek a preliminary hearing on the charges.

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