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January 12, 2012

UPDATED: 1st grade teacher charged with sex abuse

Allegations against Good Hope Primary teacher date back 11 years

CULLMAN — A first grade teacher at Good Hope Primary School has been arrested and charged with three counts of sexual abuse, stemming from decade-old allegations involving two young girls.

Chad Gambrill, 36, of Welti, has been indicted on two charges of sexual abuse in the first degree, and one charge of sexual abuse in the second degree. He was arrested by the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday afternoon. When contacted Thursday afternoon, Gambrill declined to comment, referring questions to his attorney Champ Crocker.

“These decade-old accusations are just that — accusations — and Mr. Gambrill flatly denies them,” Crocker said in a statement e-mailed to The Times. “Mr. Gambrill is shocked and dismayed to be accused of hurting a child, particularly since he serves this community as a teacher. Having served this nation as a soldier, Mr. Gambrill respects the legal system and the rights guaranteed to us all under the Constitution. He looks forward to clearing his name.”

Once charges were filed, Gambrill was placed on indefinite paid administrative leave by the Cullman County Board of Education. He has taught first grade at Good Hope Primary since 2005, and has worked in different capacities at Good Hope schools since 2000.

Authorities say the current charges are not related to Gambrill’s position as a teacher, but stem from an investigation into allegations dating from approximately 11 years ago.

The Cullman County Sheriff’s Office has been looking into the case for almost five months, involving allegations Gambrill abused two girls under the age of 12. Authorities say Gambrill was familiar with the children at the time of the alleged abuse.

Cullman County Board of Education Superintendent Billy Coleman declined to comment specifically on the charges, but reiterated they have no connection to Gambrill’s position as a teacher.

“They have absolutely nothing to do with school, in any way,” he said. “That’s important for everyone to understand, because of the concern we all have for the welfare of our students. But, of course, our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in this situation.”

Coleman also noted Gambrill had no previous complaints on file in his school personnel record.

“Our policy on things such as this is to place the employee on leave until the legal process can take place,” Coleman said. “We believe it is in the best interest of the employee, students and school system to give that legal process time to take place.”

Good Hope Primary School Principal Janet Maddox referred a request for comment to the superintendent.

A background check was performed on Gambrill at the time of his hiring, as required by state law, though nothing was found.

Before starting work at the primary school, Gambrill reportedly served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Iraq. In 2008 he sued the school system after being passed over for a promotion, claiming he was discriminated against because of the time he spent in the military. A judge eventually ruled against Gambrill and in favor of the school system. That decision was later affirmed following an appeal in 2010.

Gambrill was held at the Cullman County Detention Center on a $90,000 bond Wednesday afternoon. He was released on bond late Wednesday night.

* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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