NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The attorney for the New Brunswick Board of Education said the district was "very responsive" in reporting to authorities a New Brunswick Middle School coach and paraprofessional suspected at the time of having sexual contact with a student.
George Hendricks, attorney for the Board of Education, said at the Aug. 20 meeting that the board disagrees with the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office's statement that the school district "took too long to notify law enforcement."
Eugene Colbert, 31, of South River, pleaded guilty in a plea deal June 17 of first-degree aggravated sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl on school grounds, according to court records. He is facing a prison sentence of 25 years to life.
Soon after Colbert was taken into custody in March, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey said district officials "initially failed to notify law enforcement of the criminal activity as is required by the Uniform State Memorandum of Agreement Between Education and Law Enformcent Officials."
According to the memo, schools are required to notify law enforcement "whenever any school employee in the course of his or her employment develops reason to believe that a crime involving sexual penetration or criminal sexual contact has been committed on school grounds, or by or against a student during school operating hours or during school-related functions or activities."
When asked about the district's response time, Hendricks said, "We said we felt we were totally responsive. We had a disagreement with the prosecutor’s office and we still disagree with them. We think we, in our timetable, when we look back on everything we did, we think we did it all right. The prosecutor had a differencing opinion. We were at loggerheads and we still are."
That has been the school district's position since Colbert was taken into custody and charged with second-degree sexual assault, second-degree child endangerment, third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact and fourth-degree criminal sexual contact. Those charges have been dropped as part of his plea deal.
Schools Superintendent Aubrey Johnson said in March the district "is committed to adhering to all laws, policies, and agreements – as evidenced by the fact that the individual who has been charged in this case was arrested following our notification to the appropriate state agency.”
At the Aug. 20 meeting, Hendricks also commented on the status of a case against David Holmes, a 58-year-old New Brunswick elementary school teacher who was arrested and charged in July with engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct with a 15-year-old student.
Holmes, of the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick, is a teacher at the Woodrow Wilson Elementary School and has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child in the second degree, aggravated criminal sexual contact in the third degree and engaging in criminal sexual contact in the fourth degree.
According to Hendricks, "The criminal case is still ongoing. We don’t know all the discovery. Right now, it’s our understanding none of this activity occurred in the school or on school property, but we’re not certain yet because we’re not privy to discovery. They won’t give it to us, that’s for sure. But eventually, we’ll get there."
According to a statement issued by the prosecutor's office, the investigation determined that from September 2018 through July 2019, Holmes engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with a student.
Board members refused to discuss Holmes' employment status at the meeting, but according to the prosecutor's office, Holmes has been employed by the New Brunswick school system for the past nine years. He was previously employed by the South Brunswick School System for eight years and served as a long-term substitute teacher with the North Brunswick School System.