Three students at a Rochester elementary school say teacher James Sullivan touched them inappropriately multiple times.
One female student told police Sullivan gave her “...a hug from behind and would lean into her and said “no one else will ever see this,” according to court documents.
Sullivan is a sixth-grade teacher at Rochester Memorial.
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“You can’t in today’s day and age even if it’s an innocent hug,” said Jacqueline Pittard, who has two grandchildren at the school. “Why would a teacher do that? They know better.”
The girls who came forward say Sullivan would touch them on their shoulders, or their rear end, and strangely enough put them in trash barrels or recycling bins in the classroom.
When one of the students said no, according to court documents, he allegedly said “I don’t care you’re going into the recycling and she was put into the can against her will.”
“I just think they should do a more thorough job of checking people like this,” said Tom Leary who has a child at the school. “Try to find the early warning signs.”
Sullivan turned himself in over the weekend and was arraigned on Monday.
He is currently free on bail.
He’s facing two charges, including a felony and a misdemeanor.
The students also tell investigators Sullivan asks girls to perform gymnastics moves and would record it on his iPad.
According to court documents, one student said “...she had a shirt on that was a little short and Mr. Sullivan asked her to perform a back-bend. She said she felt weird because she knew he was trying to film her stomach.”
Some of the behavior was described as silly at first, but became scary and made the girls feel uncomfortable as the school year progressed.
“Oh it’s disgusting,” said Leary. “Disgusted by it, somebody that’s supposed to take care of kids and do something like that.”
“Hopefully one bad apple won’t spoil the whole bunch,” said Pittard. “But I guess he’s innocent until proven guilty.”
Sullivan and his attorney have not returned calls for comment.
In a statement from the Old Rochester Regional School District, Superintendent Doug White Jr., wrote:
“On May 3, 2018 a Rochester Memorial School teacher was immediately placed on administrative leave following allegations of inappropriate conduct towards students. The employee was removed from the classroom immediately after the District learned of the allegations. We have and will continue to cooperate fully with the Rochester Police Department and other state agencies. In addition, the District immediately commenced an internal investigation of the allegations. We continue to remain committed to our efforts to ensure a safe learning environment, including the physical and emotional well-being of our students and staff. School personnel and resources have been made available to support our students. Due to the nature of the situation, the Rochester School District is unable to share any other information at this time.”
Police referred any other questions about the case to the Plymouth County District Attorney's Office.