A Rootstown math teacher pleaded not guilty Thursday after three students accused him of sexual harassment and assault.
Portage County Municipal Court Judge Barb Oswick ordered Christopher DiBattista, 40, of Garrettsville, to have no contact with any of the students, any children under age 15 or any school property. He was released on a $15,000 personal recognizance bond.
DiBattista is charged with assault, a first-degree misdemeanor, and three counts of sexual imposition, each a third-degree misdemeanor.
The Record-Courier does not usually name misdemeanor offenders, but DiBattista is in a position of trust within the community.
According to court documents, DiBattista is accused of laying his head in the lap of a 17-year-old student March 5. Between Aug. 28, 2018, and March 19, DiBattista is additionally accused of punching the same student in the arm, touching a then-16-year-old’s thigh with his hand and “spooning” another 17-year-old student.
Oswick said Thursday that a victim’s advocate had spoken with the students in the case, all of whom wished to have no contact with DiBattista.
At a Rootstown Board of Education meeting Monday, the school suspended DiBattista without pay or benefits as the board works to finalize terminating his contact. He had been on paid administrative leave since March 19.
The board also issued a resolution at the meeting that alleges that DiBattista inappropriately touched several students. The resolution reiterates the charges in the court documents, but adds that DiBattista allegedly rubbed the shoulders and upper arms of students and hugged and initiated horseplay with students that made them uncomfortable.
The resolution also says DiBattista allegedly made inappropriate comments to students, including discussing sexting with students in an approving manner, requesting permission to “cuddle” with a student, telling a student that the principal would believe DiBattista over the student and asking if touching made another student uncomfortable.
DiBattista did not make a statement during the court hearing Thursday.
Reporter Krista Kano contributed to this report. Contact Eileen McClory at 330-298-1128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Eileen_McClory