Ashland teacher pleads not guilty to sex with student

ASHLAND - An indictment against Ashland High School social studies teacher Kimberly Siracuse says she engaged in sexual conduct with a female student nearly 20 years ago.

Siracuse, 48, of 1332 Coachman Court, pleaded not guilty Monday in Ashland County Common Pleas Court to three counts of sexual battery. Judge Ron Forsthoefel set a $15,000 bail bond with 10 percent posting allowed.

Siracuse faces three charges of sexual battery, all stemming from alleged activity that occurred in May and June 1997. The statute of limitations for such crimes is 20 years. Each of the three counts is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

More than six months after she was placed on leave from her job, Siracuse was arrested Sunday night at Buffalo Wild Wings in Ashland. Defense attorney James Mayer III questioned the nature of the arrest.

Mayer said his client was aware of the charges, had strong ties to the community and had retained counsel months ago.

"They could have sent out a summons, and we'd have been here just the same," the defense attorney said. "It seems to be a bit unnecessary. It seems there was a desire to make this a very public event."

Ashland police Chief Dave Marcelli refuted the claim Monday.

"Warrants cannot be turned into summonses by law enforcement," he said. "We seized her person and brought her before the court, which is what the warrant orders."

Siracuse entered courtroom wearing a green jail jumpsuit. She was shackled at the hands and feet and had her hair pulled into a ponytail.

She cried before the start of her hearing.

In asking for bond, Mayer said Siracuse had been in the community for more than 25 years, had no criminal history and posed "absolutely no flight risk."

Prosecutor Chris Tunnell said he had no objection to bond being set. He asked the judge to order Siracuse to have no contact with Ashland students or school personnel.

Forsthoefel complied with Tunnell's request, also telling Siracuse not to leave the state. Siracuse posted bond Monday afternoon.

Forsthoefel set a trial date of March 14, 2017.

The Ashland County Prosecutor's Office will not be releasing the name of the alleged victim, according to a news release. Tunnell declined to comment beyond the release.

School records show the Ashland City School District reported the social studies teacher and senior class adviser to the Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Professional Conduct on March 2, alleging "conduct unbecoming to the teaching profession."

Siracuse was removed from the classroom March 4. Since then, she has been working from home on assignments based on district needs. She continues to be paid, but does not have contact with students.

Superintendent Doug Marrah said a long-term substitute has been handling Siracuse's classes while she has been on leave.

Marrah said Monday the district's board of education will discuss Siracuse's status at a previously scheduled special meeting Monday night. He said the district would have no further comment on the advice of its attorney.

mcaudill@gannett.com

419-521-7219

Twitter: @MNJCaudill

Courtney Day and Lou Whitmire contributed to this story. 


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