An Ohio high school teacher has been terminated after an investigation revealed a series of suggestive text messages between himself and a student.
Mark Bollinger, a 44-year-old husband and father of three from Marion, was notified of his termination by district superintendent James Peterson on July 31, the Marion Star reported. The River Valley Local Schools Board of Education determined that Bollinger violating the district's policy on fraternizing with students via email or social media and also accused him of insubordination.
According to reports. Bollinger began texting a 19-year-old female student in April 23, 2015, and continued until June 18. The student graduated that spring.
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The board became aware of the text messages after a friend notified the student’s mother about the relationship between her daughter and the school teacher. The parent then notified the board on June 11.
Investigators collected some of the text messages saved on the friend’s phone. They then interviewed Bollinger and the student, who both said their relationship was not of a sexual nature. They did, however, admit to one kiss, which they claimed happened after the student graduated.
The Marion County’s Office decided not to file criminal charges at this time based on current evidence. However, Peterson said the school board hired an independent investigator who uncovered additional text messages dating back to the beginning of the year.
The hired investigator, Douglas Duckett, concluded that Bollinger “flirted” with the student and “groomed her in an obvious sexual pursuit,” with text messages during school hours and at night.
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Duckett's report also notes that the student and teacher met during school hours for “make out sessions” at least twice during the school year.
Peterson said he addressed teachers and staff about the incident. He added that he will be conducting a district-wide review of social media policy.
“We want our teachers to reach out to students in times of need,” said Peterson.
“We are here to protect our students,” Peterson added. “Their safety is our top concern. We have a great staff here and great students. This is an unfortunate situation, but we will learn from this and move forward.”
Bollinger, who is also accused of severing alcohol to minors and encouraging others to be dishonest with law enforcement, would not comment. He said he is currently in the process of filing a grievance over his termination with the teachers union.
Bollinger had been working for the school district since 1997. He also directed and founded a non-profit AAU basketball organization for kids between the ages of 4 and 11, according to Central Ohio Clash.
Photo Credit: River Valley K12