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Girl says Lockport principal kissed her shoulders with his daughter present

NORTH TONAWANDA - A 12-year-old girl testified Tuesday that a Lockport school principal, James A. Snyder, brushed her long hair and kissed her on both shoulders as Snyder's daughter stood next to her.

The girl was 11 years old at the time and attending a birthday party for the principal's daughter at his home. His daughter ran into the house to get some hair detangler as Snyder brushed the girl's hair after sitting her on his lap. Snyder said to her, "Hey, sexy," the girl testified.

She said she did not tell anyone about what happened until after midnight, when she told her aunt after the July 16 party. The party broke up because of what an older girl called Snyder's "intense" yelling.

Snyder, 46, the principal of North Park Junior High School, faces trial on two misdemeanor charges of child endangerment - one for his alleged conduct with the girl and the other for allegedly throwing a plastic bottle at his daughter.

A 15-year-old girl who said Snyder hired her to help babysit at the party testified Tuesday that she decided to leave the party with the younger girls, including the principal's daughter, for a neighbor's home after his outburst.

"I don't feel like I overreacted. I thought it was the right thing to do," the babysitter said on the stand. "I didn't want anything to escalate. I didn't want anything to get worse than just the yelling. I didn't want anyone to get hurt."

The babysitter said she heard a noise in the kitchen that sounded "like plastic hitting the ground," but she didn't see Snyder throw anything.

The 12-year-old girl testified she did not tell her mother, or anyone, about what happened until she was taken to her grandparents' Town of Lockport home after the party and told the story to her aunt.

"How did you feel at that time?" Niagara County First Assistant District Attorney Holly E. Sloma asked the girl.

The girl remained silent for several seconds and then started to weep.

Earlier, she had been the first witness in the trial to say that Snyder had shouted at his daughter, "Go to hell! Go live with your mother!" Other girls had testified they heard only the second sentence, or just heard shouting.

The girl's account of Snyder's daughter being present during the hair brushing was not included in the statement she gave police at the time, defense attorney Michele G. Bergevin said.

The girl's mother denied ever giving permission to Snyder to touch her daughter. They had spoken at the girls' soccer game the previous day about caring for the hair of their long-haired daughters.

The mother said, "She never lets me brush her hair. He said his daughter was the same way."

On the witness stand Tuesday, the girl said no when Bergevin asked if her mother told her at the soccer game, "All right, Mr. Snyder's going to have to brush your hair then."

Snyder, of Irving Street, Lockport, was placed on administrative leave after he was charged by Lockport police last August. If convicted, he faces up to a year in jail on each of the two counts. The trial was moved to North Tonawanda after both Lockport city judges recused themselves.

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