Former Ballantyne, NC, preschool teacher accused of fondling boys | The State

Former Ballantyne, NC, preschool teacher accused of fondling boys | The State

A former teacher at a Ballantyne preschool is accused of “forcibly fondling” at least two boys at the south Charlotte school.

Joseph Starnes, 35, a former teacher at Primrose School of Ballantyne was arrested on Friday and charged with six counts of indecent liberties with a child. He was in the Mecklenburg County jail on Monday on $180,000 bail.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said they were notified on March 7 that an 8-year-old boy had been fondled at the school. During their investigation, CMPD detectives obtained information and evidence that a 7-year-old boy also had been fondled at the school in the 15900 block of Lancaster Highway.

“We are deeply troubled to see this news unfold as it has,” Mary Schroeder, franchise owner of Primrose School of Ballantyne, said in a statement. “Nothing is more important to us than the safety and security of the children entrusted to our care.”

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Starnes had an “issue-free record” when the N.C. Child Development and Early Education Health and Human Services office provided a background check on him when Primrose was hiring him in May 2014, Schroeder said. “And his previous employers actually said they would hire him again. We pride ourselves on an open-door policy with parents, and in his time at our school, evaluations of Mr. Starnes have been positive. We are fully cooperating with the authorities and are awaiting the findings of their investigation.”

The preschool also offers an after-school program and summer camps for children ages 5 through 12.

CMPD Crimes Against Children detectives “continue to actively investigate this case to determine if there are additional victims,” the department said in a statement on Monday afternoon.

Anyone with information about the cases or Starnes is asked to call police at 704-336-4466.

Founded in 1982, Primrose Schools has more than 300 locations in 29 states, including nine in the Charlotte area.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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Sara Pratt