NEWTON, NJ – Authorities contend a Hopatcong Middle School teacher, former Succasunna Boy Scout leader and Roxbury firefighter last month repeatedly kissed and fondled a 14-year-old girl who was one of his students, according to a published report.
The man, Eric Strand, 57, was arraigned in state Superior Court in Newton on Friday, where he faced charges of third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, according to The New Jersey Herald, which covered the court session. The paper said Strand posted $100,000 bail and was released on condition he not have contact with anyone under 18 years old.
The article said the girl was one of Strand’s students. It cited a police affidavit that laid out law enforcement’s allegations as follows:
Strand first kissed the girls shoulder and mouth at the end of a school day in early June when the girl returned to his classroom to retrieve her cell phone from Strand, who had taken it earlier in the day.
The next day, Strand met the girl and again kissed her. A third meeting took place June 21 at the Hopatcong High School track, where the girl suggested they meet. At that encounter more kissing took place.
The affidavit, according to the report, says Strand and the girl met again eight days later. The teacher took the student to his house in Flanders and “made out” with her on his deck. During that session, Strand not only kissed the girl but also touched her buttocks and breasts outside her clothing before returning her home.
The affidavit contends that, between June 9 and July 3, Strand and the girl exchanged 16 phone calls, according to the report. It also says Strand – upon learning from the girl that other people knew what was going on – told the student to lie.
According to the report, Strand was arrested July 7 after police executed a search warrant of his house and vehicle. Roxbury police were joined by police from Hopatcong Borough and the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office in the investigation, says the report.
Strand is a member of Roxbury Fire Station #1 and a former scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 163 in Succasunna. He played a role in the fire station’s creation of a scholarship last year using donated money.
Hopatcong Schools Superintendent Cynthia Randina issued a statement calling the incident a “very unfortunate situation” that the district is taking seriously.
“The safety and security of our students is at the forefront of our minds every single day,” wrote Randina. “The district had no knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing, and district officials have been cooperating with law enforcement throughout the investigation now underway. The district will take appropriate action after the police department has completed its investigation."
A press release from 2014 about the Special Olympics, said Strand had volunteered for the past 10 years for the event at Mountain Creek resort. It said Strand had been a Hopatcong teacher for 16 years at the time, "In addition to his teaching duties, Mr. Strand has been the Ski/Snowboard Club Advisor for 11 years," said the release.