A former high school teacher in Elkhart, Indiana, who allegedly groped students and asked them to touch themselves during class was charged with more than a dozen sex crimes this week.
According to the South Bend Tribune, Andrew Cowells, 47, was charged Wednesday with 10 counts of possessing child pornography, two counts of child solicitation, two counts of voyeurism, two counts of battery, and one count of vicarious sexual gratification.
Cowells, who was officially fired by Concord Community Schools on Monday, had been placed on leave by the district last month following complaints that he had made "inappropriate comments of a sexual nature." He had been employed by the district for 17 years.
Over the course of an investigation, law enforcement allegedly discovered that Cowells had done much more than make inappropriate comments. Court documents show that many of the charges stemmed from a May 5 class at the high school, during which Cowells asked students to touch themselves or let him touch them in front of the class.
Here's more from the South Bend Tribune report:
One student said Cowells asked him to touch himself while he stood on top of a chair in the classroom, court documents say. Another student said Cowells sat on a student's desk in the classroom and talked about "sexual things."
A third student said Cowells told sexual jokes and asked "if anyone had the courage" to let Cowells touch them. Cowells then taunted the class for someone to volunteer and when the student stood up, Cowells touched the boy "from his shoulders to his butt[ocks]."
Cowells also took a group of male students into the boy's restroom that morning. In the bathroom, Cowells touched one student.
Two other students alleged that while they were urinating in the bathroom, Cowells attempted to look at their private areas.
The report noted that the students who spoke with police regarding the incidents were between the ages of 15 and 16.
After obtaining a search warrant for Cowells' phone, investigators reportedly discovered numerous photographs of underaged boys partially or fully undressed, some performing sex acts. None of Cowells' students, however, were included in the photographs.
Speaking to reporters, Superintendent Dan Funston got choked up and he expressed anger over Cowells' alleged actions.
"Any action or failure to act to protect the well-being of our students will not be tolerated. As a Concord parent myself this is personal, the well-being of our students is our most important responsibility," Funston said, according to WSBT-TV.
The news outlet noted that three other teachers were placed on leave and had their phones searched the week after the first allegation came out against Cowells. They reportedly remain on leave, though no charges have been filed.
Former Concord teacher charged with child solicitation, possession of child pornography youtu.be