OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Questions are swirling around the Ocean Springs School District over its handling of the investigation into a middle school teacher. Police arrested Grady Brown Thursday on four counts of sexual battery of a child. The child is a 7th grader at the middle school.
"I'm sad for the town. I'm sad for the school district. It's just an absolute crying shame."
Those strong words came from Ocean Springs Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Hirsch, after investigators arrested a 34-year-old teacher in his district.
Brown was in his second year as a math teacher at the middle school. He also coached wrestling at the high school. In fact, he started the first and only high school wrestling team in Mississippi.
"Worked very hard to go back and get his teacher certification and his credentials," Hirsch said. "He actually has done a great job out there with the kids and with our athletes and with the other teachers."
The police department began its investigation this week into allegations that Brown had a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old student at the middle school. Police said the school district conducted its own investigation back in February. Coach Brown was placed on administrative leave with pay then, while school officials looked into the complaint. Brown was not suspended, Hirsch said, for breach of policy, as police reported after the arrest.
"Anytime we investigate a serious complaint, we always suspend the teacher with pay, simply to remove the teacher from the campus," Hirsch said. "After two days, we were not able to get any information from anybody, including the girl's mother, the girl, or the teacher that indicated that anything was going on at that time."
So Hirsch said the school district had no reason to call the police.
"We don't report every investigation that we have to the police, especially if we find nothing or we get no information," he said. "Now I will tell you that if we have suspicious activity that we can confirm, then yes, we will call the police. Absolutely."
"I can't say they should have. I would have liked to have known at that time," said Ocean Springs Police Spokesman John Flowers. "Remember this, we have information when we began our investigation. We had information that they didn't when they started theirs."
The district fired Coach Brown after his arrest Thursday.
"Am I sorry this happened? Yes," said Hirsch. "Am I disgusted? Yes. Could we have done anything differently? No."
Brown remains in the Jackson County Adult Detention Center under a $500,000 bond. His initial court appearance is scheduled for Monday. Police say the Jackson County Sheriff's Department is involved in the investigation because the alleged sexual assault took place in St. Martin.