LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A Christian author has been fired as a substitute teacher at Jefferson County Public Schools after a Highland Middle School student accused him of grabbing him near his inner thigh in class.
Dennis Moel – who initially said he could not discuss the allegation, which was substantiated by a JCPS investigation, when reached by phone Wednesday – was terminated by the district effective June 4, school board records show.
JCPS launched an investigation after Highland Middle administrators received a complaint from the student on Feb. 21, a day after the incident occurred, according to documents obtained by WDRB News through an open records request.
The boy told investigators March 15 that Moel was a substitute teacher in his art class that day, according to a report of the inquiry. He said Moel approached him twice as students were drawing and talking.
On the second occasion, he said Moel sat down and placed his knees between the boy’s legs and touched him near his inner thigh and whispered, "A time not used is a time wasted."
Moel then told the boy to grab his hands and squeeze tightly, which he did, according to the investigation report. The student said Moel told him, "Nice grip."
After he told the substitute to get away, the boy said Moel hit him on the back of the head as he left the area.
Three other Highland Middle students in the class corroborated the boy's version of the incident in interviews and written statements, the report says. One of the students said Moel grabbed her hand as she turned in a paper after class and made her "feel uncomfortable."
Moel, in his March 18 interview with investigators and in a subsequent letter received by a JCPS investigator March 27 included in the report, raised the possibility that the students had rehearsed their statements.
He denied touching the boy's leg or hitting him on the head. While he typically corrects students' grammar and has used phrases like, "A time not used is a time wasted," to entire classes, he denied whispering it to an individual student.
Moel described himself as a "Godly man" to investigators and called sexual contact with students "abhorrent," according to the report.
In his letter to a JCPS investigator, he called the situation "one of the most trying experiences of my life."
"I reiterate that such vulgarity would never enter my mind," Moel wrote in the letter. "It is my belief that my God would severely judge me for such reprehensible behavior."
"It would have seemed very stupid on my part to have done and said what was purported in the open-view of so many potential witnesses," he added.
But Moel's forceful denials weren't enough to sway JCPS investigators, who sided with the Highland Middle students and substantiated the boy's allegation that Moel touched him inappropriately.
"All the students interviewed reported observing Mr. Moel place his hand near (student's name redacted) upper thigh area of his leg," investigators concluded in the report. "It should be noted that the written statements, dated February 21, 2019, provided to this investigator appeared to be verbatim.
"However, when this investigator interviewed the students several weeks after they provided the school administration their written statements, they maintained their account of the incident."
The district's decision to fire Moel, whose phone number is listed on a website detailing his five books that explore themes like the presence of Christ in the Old Testament and why bad things happen to believers of God, came about half a year after he started substitute teaching with JCPS. Personnel records show he was hired as a substitute on Dec. 14.
Moel, who retired as a realtor in 2004 per personnel records, is also described as a pastor and family counselor on his website, although no church is listed.
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