Warren teacher resigns

WARREN – A longtime Warren G. Harding High School teacher resigned amid questions regarding unprofessional conduct with a student.

The resignation ended a conduct investigation by the schools, but Warren police Lt. Jeff Cole said a criminal investigation remains open. Cole said he could not comment further since the case is ongoing.

Superintendent Michael Notar on Thursday confirmed he had received information that special education and health teacher Joanne L. Bennett had been observed with a male high school student at various times out in the community, raising questions of whether unprofessional conduct was occurring.

Notar said the matter was handed over to Warren police, Trumbull County Children Services and the Ohio Department of Education.

According to documents contained in Bennett’s personnel file, she was placed on home assignment March 3 and was instructed not to be on school property or contact any employee or student of the district. Bennett also was informed that a fact-finding meeting was scheduled for March 6.

However, within a day or two of a conversation between Bennett and Notar, Bennett “offered to resign and surrender her teaching license in return for the district stopping its investigation,” Notar states in the misconduct reporting form he sent to the state.

State law requires instances of professional misconduct by educators to be reported to the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Notar said the school district is no longer investigating the matter because of her resignation.

ODE’s associate director of communications John Charlton said he could not confirm receiving a referral or whether an investigation was opened. However, in the event that one is initiated, it usually is completed within 30 days and in cooperation with local law enforcement officials, he said.

Once any investigation is concluded, a recommendation for possible disciplinary action is submitted to the school board. However, if a teacher willingly surrenders his or her educator’s license, once approved, the board does not investigate further, he said.

Bennett’s resignation was accepted by the Warren City Schools Board of Education during a special meeting March 31. Her resignation was effective March 17.

Attempts to reach Bennett for comment were unsuccessful.

Bennett had been employed as an educator with Warren City Schools for more than 25 years. She is a 1981 graduate of Chalker High School.

Personnel records released to the Tribune Chronicle do not indicate any prior accusations. Observation forms included in the file describe her demeanor as “professional, welcoming and friendly” and that she “worked very hard to establish a strong rapport with the students in her class.”