ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — A Ritenour teacher was charged after police said he inappropriately touched one of his students.
Richard Bell, a 60-year-old man from Charlack, was indicted by a St. Louis County grand jury for sexual contact with a student.
According to a release from the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, an investigation by the St. Ann Police Department found Bell inappropriately touched one of his choir students at Ritenour High School on April 22. The student was 15 years old. Police said the contact was seen and reported by another student.
The prosecuting attorney's office said his personnel file with the school showed he had similar allegations against him in 2008. He then signed a memo stating he "would not touch students and would maintain appropriate relationships with students", according to the release from the prosecuting attorney's office.
A law enforcement source told 5 On Your Side there may be other recent incidents, beyond just the current case.
The charge against bell is a Class E Felony and could carry up to one year in jail and up to four years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine, the release from the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney's office stated. Bell's bond has been set at $50,000 by the court.
"I applaud this young person and witness for having the courage to speak up," said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, in the release. "No one should tolerate a teacher inappropriately touching a student. Of all places, our schools should be safe spaces for our youth."
5 On Your Side reached out to Ritenour School District for more information. We're told Bell has been teaching at Ritenour High School since August 2004, but they could not provide anything further since it is a "personnel matter". They did share a copy of a letter sent to staff and families. It is as follows:
Dear Ritenour High School Staff and Families,
This is a difficult letter to write, but one I believe is important. In an effort to provide accurate information to the school community, I want to inform you of a sensitive situation.
Earlier this spring, district staff was contacted alleging possible inappropriate contact between a Ritenour High School (RHS) teacher and RHS students. The teacher was placed on administrative leave. In accordance with state law, the Missouri Division of Family Services (DFS) was contacted.
Following the completion of the investigation, the teacher was arrested and charged June 27 in St. Louis County.
We were saddened and shocked to learn of this situation. We hold educators and other district employees to the highest standards of conduct in the best interest of kids. We stand committed to providing an environment focused on learning for our students. Administrators are cooperating fully with the appropriate investigative authorities.
Please know we appreciate your cooperation and support as we continue to work together to assure the safety of our children and create a culture where every student feels valued and respected. Counselors and social workers are available for any student or staff member who needs any type of support related to this situation. Please contact our office if you would like to speak with one of these professionals.
Dr. Jana Haywood, Principal
Amy Robins, Forensic Services program director with the Child Advocacy Center said that anyone dealing with children needs to report even the slightest suspicion of inappropriate behavior.
"It can be it could have happened, it might have happened, it could happen and all of those times we need those mandated reporters or even those folks in the community who are invested in making sure that kids are safe to report it when they have those suspicions," Robins said.
If you suspect child abuse, call the Missouri Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-392-3738
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