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Investigation underway for two Harford County teachers, community fights to keep them in Bel Air

Posted at 11:21 PM, Jun 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-11 08:40:48-04

BEL AIR, Md. — Parents and students filled the room for the Harford County Public Schools Board of Education meeting on Monday night. Several people shared their love for two Bel Air High School teachers who are also directors for the Bel Air Drama Company.

"To me, the company means family and inclusions, and we always have someone to support us," said a student.

It was an atmosphere these parents and students said was created by Chuck Bowden and Ben Smith.

Both of these teachers/directors are on administrative leave. The spokesperson for Harford County Public Schools said they couldn't release why since it's an ongoing personnel investigation. Bowden has worked for Harford County Schools for 18 years and Smith for 19 years.

"We think they're important enough that they're worth fighting for, and we want them to stay at Bel Air," said Kiley Ernest, a former student and performer for Bowden and Smith.

The spokesperson for Harford County Public Schools confirmed there is an outside agency looking into these two teachers, and that concerns were reported to the Department of Social Services, per protocol. In addition to that, upon the teachers' return, they confirmed both teachers will be reassigned to different schools.

"We're trying to stop that," said Erric Hetzer, a Harford County parent who's seen the impact these teachers have made on students. He added, "I have seen so many anxious, nervous, worried children become confident and self-assured." He said he understands the schools board's concern but hopes everything is resolved.

"They want to make sure everything is safe and healthy for anybody else but anybody can be a victim of this. Anybody can have a false report filed against them," said Hetzer.

Hetzer, other parents, and students said they believe the negative accusations are false. They're hoping Smith and Bowden are found innocent and can return to work in Bel Air.

"Without them at school we'd have a huge hole beyond drama," said Kaiden Hetzer, Erric's son."They taught me to be a better person."

He stressed it wouldn't be a loss just for the school, but for the entire community.

Ernest said Bel Air Drama Academy houses the Northeastern Theater Festival.

"We have tons and tons of high schools coming to hear Broadway singers and to get training from professionals. All of that started because of these two gentlemen," said Ernest.