Ex-school staffer pleads not guilty to molestation

Published 8:51 am Friday, April 29, 2011

A former Southgate Elementary School teacher’s aid has pleaded not guilty to allegations that he molested two students.

Richard Dale Burch, 54, entered his plea Thursday in Mower County Court. He faces five charges ranging from fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct to first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

According to a court complaint, Burch allegedly touched an 8-year-old girl’s genital area while he was supervising a bus trip to a roller rink in Brownsdale on Dec. 17.

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Police were alerted of Burch’s alleged behavior after the girl told her mother Burch had touched her inappropriately.

When officers questioned him, Burch said he hugs students if they initiate contact, and he buys them candy and allows them to sit on his knee.

Burch apparently called the girl’s parents around five times asking if the girl could come on the bus trip. He also gave the girl, her sister and their parents gift cards for Christmas.

According to court documents, Burch had also asked the girl to sit in his deer stand with him last fall. Her parents did not permit her to do so.

Burch is also accused of touching a 16-year-old girl’s genitals on numerous occasions over the last few years.

The girl, who is mentally and physically disabled, told police Burch had rubbed her leg several times on the bus. Burch apparently takes the girl and her friends swimming in the summer, and he has allegedly put his hand inside her swimsuit bottoms when he picks her up and throws her in the pool, according to a court complaint.

The girl’s grandmother told police Burch took her under his wing when she was younger, so she goes swimming and to the races with him. She even stayed overnight at his house on one occasion, the grandmother told officers.

When police spoke with Burch, he said he has known the girl for years but did not remember if she was a student at Southgate Elementary while he was working there. The court complaint stated nothing further from Burch.

Burch’s jury trials in both cases are set to begin July 25.