School board keeps Williston coach accused of sexual misconduct on paid leave
WILLISTON — Williston High girls basketball varsity head coach Walter Eldridge, who was placed on paid administrative leave on April 14 for alleged sexual misconduct, will remain on leave and not be discharged even though two more Jane Does have stepped forward in the case.
Eldridge, 33, was arrested on a charge of sexual assault for allegedly inappropriately touching an 18-year-old girl in December.
The Williston School board held a special hearing Tuesday night and decided to keep him on leave, despite a recommendation that he be discharged.
That initial charge against Eldrdige was a Class B misdemeanor, but recent court documents cite an investigation that reveals two more unnamed ‘Jane Doe’s’ relevant to the case.
These additional Jane Doe’s came to light as a result of Eldridge’s lawyer’s request for discovery materials the defense argues have not been provided to the defendant.
Outgoing Superintendent, Dr. Viola LaFontaine recommended Eldridge’s discharge via phone conference, citing three statutory justifications for his removal — immoral conduct, conduct unbecoming of a teacher and insubordination.
The school board went into executive session to discuss details of the proposed dismissal. After reopening the session, a motion was made which resulted in a 3 to 1 vote to ‘recommend to contemplate discharge.’
The school district’s attorney, Rachel Bruner Kaufmen, who was also in phone conference, stated a hearing would have to be set up, which could take as long as 12 weeks to begin, meaning the hearing would take place when school is potentially back in session.
Depending on what would be determined by the board following that hearing, the district would be required to report to the Education Standards and Practices Board. A finding against Eldridge could result in the revocation of his teaching license.
The board then went back into executive session to discuss whether Eldridge should be suspended without pay. He is currently on paid administrative leave pending the criminal court case.
The board declined to make a motion to alter Eldridge’s current standing with the district.
His status as a coach was not up for discussion at the meeting.
A jury trial on the criminal charges is currently slated for August 26.