Protests over parent, accused of molestation, allowed at events with victim

GRANT COUNTY, Ind. (September 21, 2016) -- Wednesday night, the Oak Hill United School Corporation board held a special session to decide what to do about an accused child molester who has kids at the school.

“The first time I saw him at a game with his victim and no one said anything, I decided it was probably time that people were aware,” says Danielle Biddle.

Danielle Biddle believes concerns raised by herself and other parents prompted the special session.

She’s leading a team of protesters who have all been worried seeing fellow parent Anthony Gibson at volleyball and soccer games. In the stands at those games, is the teen who says he molested her while spending the night with a friend.

“I think her emotional safety is at risk,” says fellow parent Lance Robey. “We’re talking about a barely 13-year-old girl and I think she should have some protection from that.”

To prompt board members to provide that safety for the teenager, parents gathered outside the special session with signs with phrases like, “Protect our kids”. They split up to face off against some dodging school board members going in back and side entrances. Each time, they reminded them of the policy they hoped to see voted on at next Monday’s public meeting.

The incident at the core of this debate happened on June 20.

According to court documents, Gibson put his hands up the teen’s shorts while she was sleeping.

When the girl tried to leave, Gibson called police to say someone had just broken in to his house and touched the girl. That night, police and a K-9 found no evidence anyone else ever stepped foot on the property.

Deputies arrested Gibson in early July for child molestation, a level four felony.

No contact and protective orders are in place, but they don’t specify how far away Gibson has to be.

“I think that the system is failing us and failing her at this time,” says Robey.

So while Gibson waits for his December trial, parents say they frequently see him at school events.

“He can actually sit down right beside her and stare at her,” says Robey.

In an email, school superintendent Joel Martin tells me it is within a school’s rights to decide, with reasonable and rational thinking, the extent of access someone has to its property.

Biddle wonders why they aren’t able to deny access to someone facing such serious charges, similar to other similar cases involving minors.

“If there’s an allegation of a parent abused a child, they remove that child from the home immediately,” says Biddle. “And that child stays out of the home until a decision is made. So I don’t quite understand in our schools, why just being charged with the crime isn’t enough to keep them away from our children until the answer is given.

Gibson did not respond to a request for a comment.

Superintendent Joel Martin declined to talk on camera tonight, but in a statement, said he is aware of the concerns, but the school district “is not at liberty to discuss the matter at this time”.

He says the issue is on the agenda for Monday’s public meeting.

Biddle hopes there he and the board show they’re taking parents’ concerns seriously.

“The quicker we can resolve this, the faster these kids can get back to being kids,” says Biddle, “going to school, enjoying their sporting events, not looking over their shoulders, not having to keep a constant eye on your friend to make sure she’s okay. You know, just letting them be kids again.”

The investigator on the case, Grant County Detective Sergeant Shelby Taylor tells me he’s received several calls from concerned parents about how close Gibson has been to the victim. He says there is a plan in the works to hold a hearing to make the protective and no-contact orders in this case more specific.

There’s no date yet when that could happen, so in the meantime, the school board is left with the issue parents say it’s imperative they get support on.

“I think that the superintendent’s position may be in jeopardy if not,” says Robey. “I think that people are serious. The turnout here in this small community is good. I think they’ll do the right thing. I really do.”