PADUCAH — The parents of a McCracken County High School sex abuse victim say the protection of thousands of area students is at risk because of the actions of McCracken County Attorney Sam Clymer. They are asking the attorney general to investigate Clymer's decision earlier this year to drop charges against McCracken County High School officials accused of failing to report sexual abuse. Attorney Bard Brian represents the parents of the girl former student Princekumar Joshi recently pleaded guilty to abusing. The principal of the school at the time, Michael Ceglinski, and others at the school learned of the abuse, but did not report it. Ceglinski and another school official were charged in connection with the Joshi case and another involving the school's fishing coach. This came at a time the school was rocked by repeated charges of sex crimes.
"You don't have to be sure. You don't have to be certain. You have to have a reasonable belief, reasonable grounds to know, or have a reason to believe a child has been neglected or abused or dependent," Clymer said in February. "By reporting, you're not going to get somebody arrested immediately or get somebody in trouble immediately. What you're going to be doing is calling attention to the fact that this may have been going on. I have reason to believe that this is happening. A vulnerable member of society has been exploited, or harmed, or otherwise done wrong and we need to look into it."
But, by March 14, the charges were dropped, and Ceglinski was back at the high school. The letter to the attorney general says "Clymer, faced with public displays of support for Ceglinksi, interpreted the law in a frightening way." Clymer said the law does not require the school teachers, counselor, and other personnel to report suspected abuse if it's student-on-student abuse.
"I cannot find, and my colleague, we cannot find any basis in the law for the interpretation by the county attorney," said Brian. "It certainly appears to be an outlier in the interpretation of this law among counties at least in Western Kentucky. What we're talking about is simply having teachers and instructing teachers to report incidents of abuse. That's all we're asking. But the county attorney says, 'Well, if it's a child on child we don't have any duty to report.' Not only that, one of the school officials who benefited from this interpretation by the county attorney, now that school official's been promoted."
The letter asking for the attorney general to intervene calls Clymer's opinion that of an "outlier" and a "gross misinterpretation." Clymer is said to be either "ignoring relevant case law or is incapable of comprehending" previous rulings. It goes on to call Clymer's interpretation of the law "bizarre, contrary to the plain language of the statute and in direct opposition to published case law." Brian said it gives school administrators a way to bury complaints they may find politically embarrassing.
"Cover up, sweep it under the rug, make it go away, whatever you want to use," said Brian.
Clymer's motion to dismiss the charges acknowledged it was based on what he called a "modified interpretation" of the law. He said his opinion followed "extensive legal research," but also conceded he could find no precedents specifically addressing interpretation of the statute. The letter also says Clymer took the Ceglinski case to mediation prior to dismissing the charge for "political reasons." It says the mediation with a retired judge was never done before, and "was a clumsy attempt to cover up the politically motivated dismissals by the county attorney."
We went to the McCracken County Courthouse to speak with Clymer and we called him. We were told he was on vacation. During the call to the office, I was placed on hold five times and spoke to two different staff members. They said Clymer could not be reached. I was told he'll be back Monday and I should email him. His reply to my email was one sentence: "I have no comment." The chairman of the McCracken County School Board, Chris Taylor, says despite Clymer's actions, the district policy manual requires reporting of any reasonable suspicions of student abuse. He says that's what the district expects and requires.