RICHLAND, WA - Richland High School teacher John Bittinger, 59, is currently on a 72-hour hold pending charges of third degree child molestation and indecent liberties. *Warning: This story contains graphic details.*
According to court documents, Richland Police learned on November 26th that a 14-year-old female student reported being sexually assaulted by Bittinger.
The victim reported that while in his class alone one morning mid-October, Bittinger used his body to push her onto his desk so she was sitting on it facing him. When she asked what he was doing, Bittinger took his pants off and exposed himself completely, then forcibly pulled her pants and underwear down to her mid-thigh as she said "no" and tried to push him away. Bittinger touched the outside of her genitals and told her to "stop it" as she pushed at him. The victim then kicked Bittinger in his genitals and left the classroom.
Court documents say the 14-year-old victim reported Bittinger touches other girls on the shoulders and lower back and has a reputation for being "weird and touchy." She reported that she thought he was going to rape her and started skipping his class after the incident, which corroborated with school records.
Richland High School conducted several interviews. According to court documents, one juvenile female student reported Bittinger touched her rear two different times; six female students reported that Bittinger was "touchy" towards female students, and two of these students reported he had stared at female students' breasts and looked down the shirts of one female student.
One female student reported Bittinger looked under her desk while she was wearing a dress and he said, "I had to check just to make sure that you're still a girl."
Court documents say that at this time, 7 female students have reported inappropriate behavior by Bittinger, and more interviews are scheduled.
According to court documents, on December 4th just before 5 p.m., police arrested Bittinger at his home and interviewed him at the Richland Police Department before booking him into Benton County Jail. Bittinger has denied all allegations against him.
The Richland School District released the following statement:
"Richland High School teacher John Bittinger is on paid administrative leave as part of an ongoing investigation relating to student safety. Student and staff safety is a priority and we take any reports such as these very seriously. We have followed standards and practices in place specifically for these situations. The district is fully cooperating with Richland Police Department (RPD) in its investigation. Due to the ongoing police investigation as well as student privacy concerns, the district is referring any further questions to RPD."