TALLMADGE, Ohio — A Tallmadge City School District bus aide has been arrested and terminated from his job after it was determined that he inappropriately touched five juvenile girls between the ages of six and nine on the outside of their clothing, according to information from the district and Tallmadge police.
On Feb. 25, Howard T. Franklin Jr., 32, was arrested on four counts of gross sexual imposition and five counts of attempted gross sexual imposition, police said. The investigation resulted in enhanced criminal charges because the victims are under 13 years old. Gross sexual imposition is a third-degree felony that carries a mandatory prison term.
Franklin is incarcerated in the Summit County Jail, being held on a $500,000 cash bond after his initial appearance at Stow Municipal Court.
Stow court records allege Franklin touched one girl's thigh and buttocks. Another court document alleges he presented a piece of candy to a girl, placed it in his pants pocket, then allowed the girl to "dig around in his pocket."
Franklin was employed as a school bus aide in September of 2019 when the allegations of inappropriate touching of young students arose, states a news release from Tallmadge police. He was employed as a bus monitor who rode with the driver to monitor student behavior, said Tallmadge City School District Superintendent Jeff Ferguson.
A parent made the district aware of the potential inappropriate behavior by Franklin in September, Ferguson said. The district immediately contacted Tallmadge police and Children’s Services. Petermann Bus Company, the company that contracts with the district, immediately removed Franklin from the buses and then terminated him, Ferguson said
Tallmadge Police Chief Ron Williams said Franklin's criminal case began when he was fired.
"There had been allegations, unusual allegations, that really just appeared initially to be inappropriate behavior," Williams said. "He began following school buses, which is how the police department got involved."
Williams said there were at least two school buses connected to the alleged incidents.
"It’s shocking to everybody. It’s shocking to us, and worst of all parents and the kids," he said.
An automated phone message was sent to parents with students in the district informing them of what happened, Ferguson said. He was unable to provide further details due to the ongoing criminal investigation.
Ferguson said the safety and well-being of their students is the district’s priority.
News 5 reached out to Petermann for comment. A spokesperson sent the following statement:
On Tuesday, September 24, 2019, our team received complaints of alleged inappropriate behavior by a former monitor while working on his route in Tallmadge. We immediately suspended the monitor pending investigation. We notified the District and local authorities on Sept 24, 2019.. We worked closely with the authorities, and provided videos of the alleged incidents to the police for its review and investigation. Additionally, the Department of Child and Family Services was notified about the allegations made against our former employee. The monitor’s employment was terminated on Friday, September 27, 2019.
The safety of our students is our number one priority, and we take these matters extremely seriously. We acted very quickly to report these allegations and have cooperated with the local authorities and the District in their investigation.
Regarding our hiring process, we have a stringent set of guidelines, background checks, and standards that must be met in order to work for our team. A complete background check was administered and at the time of his hire, the former monitor had no disqualifying events that would have prevented us from employing him.
Petermann took over bus transportation for Tallmadge School in 2009. The company is contracted to continue providing services through 2024.