Cleburne County High School Coach And Teacher Arrested - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Cleburne County High School Coach And Teacher Arrested

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HEFLIN - AL -

Police in Cleburne County arrested a high school teacher and girl's basketball coach for inappropriate relationships with students.

Investigators charged 33-year-old Bronson Shay Ward with five counts of a "school employee engaging in a sex act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student under the age of 19 years."

Ward teaches physical education at Cleburne County High School.  He also served as an assistant coach on the varsity girl's basketball team and the junior varsity boy's basketball team during past seasons.

Heflin police chief A.J. Benefield said the case began several weeks ago when he and another investigator received information about sexual misconduct between a teacher and a student.  Investigators found more than one victim.

"Through the help and some of the victims coming forward and [their] cooperation and all, it's come to an arrest after getting enough information to do a warrant," Benefield said.

Investigators declined to say how many students are involved, and are withholding their ages to protect the identities of the victims.  Chief Benefield said the misconduct goes back to 2009, which was Ward's first year at the school.

"It's always upsetting, anybody that uses their position of authority to harm a child.  We're here to protect the kids of our community," Benefield said.

Investigators believe some of the contact happened at Ward's home in Calhoun County.

Benefield said he is also concerned Ward may have been involved in inappropriate activity with other students.

"We're looking to the public to see if anybody has any further information that might help our cases or any other victims that we haven't already spoken with that may come forward.  This is the time to come forward that way we can get their cases in court also," he said.

The case is still under investigation as police work to determine if there are additional violations.  If you have any information, contact Heflin police at 256.463.2291, and ask to speak with Chief A.J. Benefield or investigator Josh Barnett.

Cleburne County Schools superintendent Claire Dryden said legal constraints prevent her from commenting on personnel matters while they are still under investigation.

"Our practice in every case where there are allegations of professional misconduct is to thoroughly investigate and deal appropriately with the situation once all the facts are known," Dryden said in a written statement provided to ABC 33/40. 

"We have the utmost confidence in law enforcement officials to determine the facts in this matter through their investigative process and we will refrain from further comment until additional information is available," she said.

Ward remains in the Cleburne County Jail with bond set at $230,000.  If convicted, the punishment for each of the five charges is two to 20 years in prison.
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