The Easton Area School District has suspended a middle school teacher accused of molesting a young girl in his home in 2009.
Colonial Regional Police said Wednesday that Stephen Sullivan, 51, of 125 S. Chestnut St., in Bath, had sexual contact with the girl, showing her a pornographic movie and asking her to touch him. The girl was not an Easton area student, according to police and the school district.
On Thursday, the district announced it would be suspending Sullivan without pay as a result of these charges.
"Any additional discipline is dependent upon the outcome ofthe legal process," middle school Principal Charlene Symia wrote in a letter to parents. "Our school and district administrators continue to investigate this matter and have no evidence to indicate that any of the incidents involved district students or occurred on EASD property."
District officials could not be reached for further comment Thursday. Kevin Deely, Jr., the head of Easton's teacher's union, said teachers were surprised by the news. Deely had attended a talk Thursday given by Symia and school guidance counselors, and praised them for their handling of the situation.
Update: On Friday, Easton Superintendent Susan McGinley issued this statement in response to Sullivan's arrest.
Colonial Regional Detective Gary Hammer said the case began when the girl, who is now living in Montgomery County, told her mother about the incident. The mother told Montgomery's children and youth workers, who in turn contacted their counterparts in Northampton County.
Hammer said it's not unusual for a child victim to wait years before reporting sexual abuse. They may not understand what happened to them, or they may be afraid of their abuser.
"This was someone that they thought they could trust," Hammer said. According to court papers, Sullivan told the girl he would go to jail if she told what he had done.
After interviewing the girl, police searched Sullivan's apartment in Bath, and found several pornographic images of pre-teen girls.
Sullivan is charged with sexual abuse of children, possession of child pornography, indecent assault, criminal solicitation to commit indecent assault, unlawful conduct with a minor, endangering the welfare of children, and corruption of minors. Hammer said more charges against him are possible.
He was arraigned before District Judge John Capobianco in Nazareth, and sent to Northampton County Prison. The judge asked Sullivan be kept in prison until a mental health evaluation could be completed. Court papers indicated Sullivan had attempted suicide after coming home to find his apartment had been searched.
*This story has been edited since it was first posted.