Sexual improperity charges dismissed by judge
(pictured above: Samuel E. McClain)
A former Carver High School teacher pulled from the classroom because of allegations of sexual misconduct says he is looking to put his life back together after a judge dismissed all charges against him last week.
Samuel E. McClain, 38, had faced two counts of misdemeanor assault after two male students had accused him of touching them on their buttocks. One student alleged he was touched in late December; the other had claimed he was touched in mid January.
McClain was suspended with pay for 90 days (the maximum amount of time the state allows for teacher suspensions) in January. He returned to the classroom after the 90 days, but was suspended for another 90 days when prosecutors charged him in May. He has not set foot in a classroom since.
McClain, who called the charges false and scurrilous from the beginning, said he has endured months of grief, stress and agony and deserves an apology from the school system.
“I was hurt that Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools did not have my back. I felt that they took the words of these kids over that of an employee who has not had any type of misconduct prior to coming to the school system,” said McClain, who was new to Carver but is a more than 15-year teaching veteran. “There was no communication with me after this happened, and I still have not gotten an apology from anybody in the school system since the judge has handed down this verdict. They threw me under the bus and made it look like it was sexual misconduct in how they told the parents. I felt that they assumed that I was guilty, and I had to prove my innocence.”
WS/FC Schools Marketing and Communications Director Theo Helm said the school system followed protocol.
“If the allegations are criminal, we immediately turn it over to law enforcement, and we don’t do any investigating of our own until law enforcement finishes,” Helm said.
District Court Judge Chester Davis granted McClain’s attorney’s request for dismissal after prosecutors called several witnesses to the stand during a hearing last week. The judge agreed that there was insignificant evidence to convict McClain.
McClain said the judge’s decision caused him to burst into tears.
“I was relieved that this situation was over and that I could move forward with my life. I could start looking for employment and not worry about the part that asks if you have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. I know I can confidently say no,” McClain said.
McClain, who taught English, maintains the only physical contact he had with one of the students was purely innocent.
“I had just posted exam grades on the back of the classroom door so people could come in, look at their grades and leave,” he said. “I gave him a pat on his shoulder as a way of congratulating him on getting an 86 on the exam … I was trying to encourage this young man, and I have tried to help students, not hurt them.”
The allegations against McClain were covered heavily by the local media. He said the shame of being under the microscope forced him to drive as far as Raleigh to do his grocery shopping. Sunday was his first time going back to church at White Oak Grove Baptist in Greensboro, where he lives.
“I didn’t know what the community was thinking. I stopped going to church, to the malls and would go to other cities that I felt the media did not reach. It took a lot out of me and brought me down,” he said.
His mother, Katie McClain, still remembers the day her son called her to say that he was turning himself in to a Forsyth County magistrate after a warrant was issued.
“He was just devastated. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” she said.
Katie McClain, who said her son had been enthralled with education since he was a child, said she encouraged her son throughout his ordeal to seek solace in prayer.
“He was so stressed. It was hard watching him in that condition because all I could do was pray for him and reassure him,” she said.
McClain would not say if he plans to take legal action against the school system.
“I am waiting to hear from my attorney to see what direction he wants to go with that,” he said. “I feel that due to the pain, suffering, embarrassment and loss of income, I am owed some monetary restitution.”
One thing he is sure of is that he will not return to the classroom. He resigned from WS/FC Schools on June 30 and is now seeking employment in another field.
“This situation has put a bad taste in my mouth as far as being an educator in the classroom,” he said. “I am very fearful because something like this may happen again. I would prefer to do something in a leadership role as school administrator or working in the district office.”
He said he wants his accusers to know that they should not play with a person’s career.
“You don’t treat people’s livelihood as a game. I have been brought up to forgive, but I will never forget what they’ve done to me and the impact that it made on me,” McClain said.