Four former female pupils of Lake Shore Central School District fifth-grade teacher David Schmittendorf are prepared to testify he inappropriately touched them during class last school year, authorities said.
The girls, who were 10 and 11 years old at the time, have accused the 48-year-old teacher of rubbing their backs and placing his hand on their buttocks when they stood at his desk to ask a question, according to Angola village police.
"He'd usually start rubbing their backs and then go to their buttocks and leave his hand there until they walked away," said Sgt. Jeff Hicks, who Tuesday arrested Schmittendorf, who has been a teacher for 25 years.
Schmittendorf, of Norwood Drive, Hamburg, was arraigned before Angola Village Judge Michael Cooper on two felony counts of first-degree sexual abuse, two misdemeanor counts of second-degree sexual abuse and five misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
Represented by defense attorney Terrence M. Connors, Schmittendorf pleaded innocent and was released on $2,500 bail. He is to return to court at 7 p.m. Oct. 5.
The J. T. Waugh Intermediate School teacher remains on a paid suspension, according to School Superintendent Kenneth Connolly.
"The district was made aware of the situation last June 4, a Friday, and on June 7, a Monday, appropriate action was taken," Connolly said.
A plea deal had been in the works, but negotiations with the Erie County district attorney's office ended last month, and Schmittendorf rejected the deal, officials in the case said.
"Dave and his wife and their two children are shocked by these charges and are committed to defending David and his 25-year exemplary record as a teacher," Connors said.
The parents of the children support prosecution.
"We've met with the parents, and they want to proceed with the case," said Lisa Bloch Rodwin, chief of the Erie County District Attorney's Sexual Assault Bureau.
The parents of a fifth female pupil, who allegedly was touched inappropriately by Schmittendorf, are expected to make a decision later this week on whether to seek charges against him, according to police.
"The kids might eventually testify, and we want to make sure they are aware of that," Hicks said in explaining why the parents of the fifth child have not made a final decision.
The other girls, authorities said, are willing to testify.
Schmittendorf began touching the students during the 1998-99 school year and the youngsters complained to their parents, the sergeant said.
"They are young, and it made them feel uncomfortable and it kind of scared them. They went to their parents, who went to the school, and we learned about it in June," Hicks said.
Angola Police Chief Patrick Puckhaber commended the parents for working with authorities. "I have to credit the parents. They have been patient in working with authorities," Puckhaber said. "This has been a long, drawn-out investigation."
If convicted, Schmittendorf could face a prison sentence of up to seven years.