LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – The trial of a former Trinity High School teacher accused of inappropriately touching a student got underway Tuesday morning. Donald Switzer is accused of touching a 15-year-old freshman in his Spanish class.
In opening statements, prosecutors told the jury that on February 3, 2011, Switzer asked the student to stay after class and grabbed the boy's chest muscle, even after the student asked him stop.
Prosecutors said the next day, the student told a school counselor about incident. The counselor went to the principal who questioned Switzer, and he was suspended.
Prosecutors said Child Protective Services was contacted and claimed Switzer changed his story from what he told the Trinity principal. The prosecution asked the jury to find Switzer guilty of harassment and sexual abuse in the third degree.
Defense attorney Robert Florio said the student was disruptive in class and blamed the boy's father. In his opening statements, Florio told the jury the student was supposed to be in a higher level class, but his father was afraid the low 80s he was getting in the class would hurt the boy's grade point average. Florio told the jury that because of that, the father requested that his son be put in Switzer's lower-level class.
Regarding the alleged touching incident, Florio said Switzer was only trying to tap the student on the shoulder to tell him to get to his next class.
Florio claimed the boy's father, an employee of the County Attorney's office, is trying to dictate how the case is prosecuted and that he sent letters to the school asking for his son to be removed from Switzer's class. Florio said the father also called for an investigation by CPS.
According to Florio, that CPS investigation showed Swizter was not a threat and that police only filed a report at the urging of the boy's father. The CPS investigator, Jennifer Hays, testified that Switzer admitted touching the boy, but that it was an accident. She said Switzer also admitted to her that he often gave students hugs and that he knew that was probably not a good idea.
Florio told the jury the original charge against Switzer was not sexual and that the sex abuse charge against his client was not added until four months after the incident and after his first court hearing on the harassment charge.
The first witness called to the stand was the student who made the claims against Switzer. The teen, now a junior at St. Xavier High School, showed the jury a diagram of Switzer's classroom at the time of the alleged incident
The student said Switzer frequently hugged him as he was coming into class, and that Switzer would not hug everyone. In his testimony, the teen said it was known that Switzer wanted hugs. The first time it happened, the teen told jurors that he felt uncomfortable but felt he had to do it so he could get into the classroom.
The student testified that after class on February 3, "(Switzer) walked towards me. He came up to me and squeezed my chest." The teen used a mannequin to show where Switzer touched him.
The student said he told Switzer not to touch him, but Switzer did it again. The student also said it wasn't the first encounter. He said there had been hugs previously and that he had another similar run-in with Switzer a month before the February 3 incident. The student told the jury that Switzer grabbed his abs, pointed them out to another student and told that classmate to touch the student's abs.
At the start of the trial, the defense said they hoped to wrap up calling their witnesses by the end of Wednesday. Florio also told the jurors he likely will call Switzer to the stand to give his version of what happened that day in February 2011.