Teachers won't face criminal charges for alleged failure to report child abuse

Andrew Cowells

The Elkhart County Prosecutor's Office will not pursue criminal charges against the three teachers who allegedly failed to immediately report alleged abuse by Concord High School teacher Andrew Cowells to police or the Department of Child Services.

The investigation is related to Cowells' behavior in the classroom and the boys' bathroom on May 5. He allegedly attempted to watch students urinate and touched a student's backside.

Teachers are required by law to immediately report child abuse to police or DCS.

The investigation by the prosecutor's office found the three teachers who were allegedly aware Cowells had acted inappropriately with his students believed Cowells was having a "medical situation," reports said.

The prosecutor's office said that belief did not absolve the teachers of their requirement to report child abuse.

Because Cowells was removed from the classroom less than an hour after a student reported the touching incident to one of the three teachers, any future threat to students was eliminated, the prosecutor's office said.

That same teacher contacted DCS later in the day and made a formal report, reports said.

The prosecutor's office says the purpose of the law is to ensure any threat to children is eliminated and all adults, including teachers, understand their responsibility to report the threat. And the state generally does not pursue criminal charges in all cases.

Because the school took immediate action the state won't file charges against the teachers because they believe the Concord School Corporation's disciplinary action against the three teachers would serve to better correct future behavior, according to the prosecutor's office.

After the prosecutor's office made the announcement, Concord Schools released a statement that the three teachers remain on administrative leave pending the results of the district's investigation.

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