CLEARFIELD – The trial got under way Monday for a student aide accused of inappropriately touching a teenage girl when she was a student of the Clearfield County Career & Technology Center.
Edna M. Spencer, 60, of Clearfield has been charged by Officer Zachary S. Cowan of the Lawrence Township police with misdemeanor indecent assault and corruption of minors.
District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. is prosecuting the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Spencer is being represented by defense attorneys Christopher E. Mohney and Beau Grove.
The charges stem from an incident March 15, 2018 in the girl’s culinary locker room at the CCCTC, according to trial testimony from the girl who was a 17-year-old student at the time.
She said she arrived at the school around 8 a.m., and proceeded to the locker room to change into her uniform for class. A classmate was already inside.
While changing her clothes, she said Spencer entered to use the restroom. Afterwards, she testified that Spencer touched her sides while she was partially nude and made a sexual comment.
This, she said, was witnessed by her then 15-year-old classmate, and after Spencer left, she said her then 16-year-old classmate came in.
After the trio discussed what happened in the locker room, she said they decided to go to the Student Services office together to notify their guidance counselor.
She said they were referred to Fred Redden, current executive director, who was the principal at the time. They spoke with him and later gave him written statements.
She testified Spencer made her feel uncomfortable, calling the locker room incident “creepy.” She said she didn’t want this type of contact with Spencer, and she didn’t consent to it.
All three former CCCTC students testified that Spencer started her inappropriate behavior towards the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.
They said Spencer – at first – watched them change into their uniforms, called them “sexy” and touched their back and buttocks areas while they were cooking.
Over several months, they said it escalated to the locker room incident, which is what made them all uncomfortable enough to report it to the school’s administration.
Redden said on March 15, 2018, three female students came to his office and were concerned about an incident with Spencer in their culinary locker room.
He said Spencer, an aide for another student who attended the CCCTC, made the three students feel “very uncomfortable” with her inappropriate behavior towards them.
After he interviewed the students, he took them back to class and had Spencer come to the executive director’s office for the purpose of an interview about the allegations.
Redden testified that Spencer admitted she brushed the girl’s sides earlier that morning in the locker room and that she also commented about her “sexy” curves.
Under cross-examination by Mohney, he said Spencer told him it wasn’t “suggestive” and she meant no ill will. He also said there weren’t reports made by any of the other female culinary students.
When asked by Shaw, he said it was common for Spencer to walk the school’s hallways as a form of morning exercise, and she could use six or seven other restroom facilities in the school.
After the interview with Spencer, Redden said he contacted several authoritative figures, including the director of special education for the Clearfield Area School District who would have been her supervisor.
He also contacted the CASD superintendent as well as the CCCTC’s superintendent of record and its acting executive director who was absent that day.
He said Spencer was subsequently escorted out of the building. He said the students were asked for a written statement to solidify details, and he filed a ChildLine report.
Cowan said on March 22, 2018, he received a CY report that an aide, Spencer, went into the girl’s locker room and inappropriately touched a female student.
At the school, he said Redden provided him written statements that he’d obtained from the three students. All three said Spencer had touched them and made inappropriate comments.
To obtain more specific details, Cowan said on March 29, 2018, he returned to the school and interviewed all three students. He also obtained written statements from them.
On April 2, 2018, Cowan interviewed Spencer at the township police station, and Shaw published the full audio/video recording to members of the jury.
On the recording, Spencer claimed that she only used her fingertips to touch the female student’s sides, while she had her shirt off in the culinary locker room.
She also admitted to making a comment, telling Cowan she said “Look everybody [the student] is sexy.” However, she denied that she rubbed the student’s sides or commented that she was “curvy.”
Spencer denied she touched or rubbed any of the other students. When Cowan confronted her with their statements, she admitted she touched them but only on their backs or shoulders.
As the interview continued on, Spencer told Cowan she touched some female students’ legs, but only because she liked the fabric of their pants.
Spencer repeatedly said she never intended to offend the students or to hurt them in anyway. She said her comments and actions were done in admiration, which is common for her culture.
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday before the Honorable Judge Paul E. Cherry in Courtroom No. 2 at the Clearfield County Courthouse.