John Austin Hopkins, a 25-year-old former elementary school gym instructor at Clearcreek Elementary School in Springboro, Ohio, was accused of improperly touching many young girls, some of whom were as young as six years old. An inquiry was launched when a parent reported him to the school administration. Hopkins was put on paid administrative leave before resigning before the trial.
Hopkins was charged with 36 counts of gross sexual imposition after being captured on surveillance footage assaulting dozens of first-grade girls at the school over a three-month period. Hopkins would nuzzle and kiss the females while also touching their thighs, various body regions, and even inside their clothing. He also often presented DVDs in gym class, providing him with time with the children with the lights turned off.
Hopkins told authorities that he simply offered the girls side hugs and high fives after being accused of improper behavior with his female first-grade pupils, but security footage from the gym portrayed a different image. Hopkins was seen on tape making improper physical contact with 88 females, according to Warren County Prosecutor Dave Fornshell.
Hopkins was discovered with numerous young girls on his lap or straddling him in a “sexual manner,” according to Fornshell. With regard to some of the girls, his hands are going up their shirts, both the front and back sides of their shirts, reaching up under the skirt, grabbing their buttocks, the prosecutor said. That’s really what they saw in regard to these interactions, he added, adding that the instances happened in front of the whole class in the school gymnasium.
Hopkins once told one of the girls that they would marry when she was older. Fornshell stated that he established a culture in which the females fought for his love without realizing what was going on. The prosecution went on to say that in some situations, the attack was worse for the girls’ parents since they understood what had occurred, but the children were too young to comprehend it.
All 88 filmed encounters were brought to a grand jury, which produced an indictment on 36 charges pertaining to Hopkins’ involvement with 28 of the kids. Although the prosecutor did not go into detail about why the grand jury only indicted 28 of the 88 pupils, he did indicate that it might have been because of how each of the females was touched. It was finally up to the grand jury to decide what was just improper contact and what was criminal conduct warranting an indictment. Hopkins entered a not-guilty plea.
During Hopkins’ trial, his defense counsel attempted to justify his acts by stating he was autistic and didn’t see his actions as unacceptable. Carrie Hester, the school’s former human resources director, said that she observed Hopkins have an erection in the video. Prosecutors also said that Hopkins did not treat his male pupils equally. Despite the fact that both boys and girls were present in the gym at the time of the sexual contact, Hopkins only touched the females.
Parents who saw the tapes were “appalled” and dismayed by Hopkins’ behavior. Hopkins put her on his lap, spread her legs, tickled her, and nuzzled her, all while gym class was going on. One father testified against the former gym instructor as parents and kids testified against him. John Austin Hopkins was found guilty of 34 of the 36 accusations leveled against him by a jury. He risked a maximum punishment of 170 years in jail, with each offense carrying up to 5 years in prison, but he’d receive so much less.
Before announcing Hopkins’ punishment, the judge reminded everyone to keep things peaceful. Judge Robert Peeler said that past outbursts had occurred and that such disturbances would not be permitted. The former Springboro teacher was then sentenced to just eight years in jail. If we simply consider the 28 females included in his indictment, it comes to less than 3 1/2 months per accused victim. If we consider all 88 people he is suspected of victimizing, it amounts to just over a month in prison for each.
According to Prosecutor Fornshell, the case serves as a sad lesson, urging parents to educate their kids about what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of their physical safety. Although schools do comprehensive background checks before recruiting instructors, some will eventually fall through the cracks. Unfortunately, this implies that parents must be vigilant in ensuring that their kids understand when something crosses the line. There are monsters among us, and the sad fact is that we can’t even rely on our legal system to eradicate them when given the chance.
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