New revelations about alleged sexual misconduct at Indian Springs School and Birmingham church

Updated: Dec. 5, 2019 at 3:37 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - WBRC Fox6 News has learned one of the former Indian Springs School faculty members, alleged to have engaged in “educator sexual misconduct,” worked for both the school and a Birmingham church, where the church now says he may have been using participation in their choir as a way to “foster relationships” with students.

Indian Springs School started looking into allegations of sexual misconduct by faculty and staff in December of 2017, and first reported those results to students and alumni in this June 18th letter.

At that time, the school said its independent law firm found 5 former faculty members “allegedly engaged in educator sexual misconduct” including soliciting sex, grooming students, or having sex with students.

The report named three of the educators. The other two were not named but one had been fired in 2013 when the allegation surrounding him first came to light. Investigators found “credible support for a conclusion that a longstanding faculty member engaged in educator sexual misconduct with students while at Indian Springs.” It goes on to say this faculty member “was accused by several former students of grooming, inappropriate texting and communications, solicitation of sex, and a sexual relationship.” The report says Indian Springs wasn’t aware of the inappropriate behavior, that this faculty member “declined to be interviewed by investigators, and is prohibited from returning to Indian Springs.”

A week after this Indian Springs report came out, First Presbyterian Church sent this letter to members explaining why their Director of Music resigned.

The letter says the church learned in late February that Dr. Tim Thomas, who was the longtime choral director at Indian Springs, was a subject of the Indian Springs investigation. The church says it met with Thomas the day it learned of the investigation and told him they were putting him on immediate leave while they conducted their own investigation and that he would be fired if they found credible evidence.

The church says Dr. Thomas chose to resign that day and asked that they simply say it was for personal reasons.

But now, 4 months later, the church said it had "credible information that leads us to believe he did engage in sexual misconduct with students." The Church says it didn't know about this at the time and doesn't think it happened on church property, but did say "he most likely used participation in our choir as a way to foster those relationships."

“It’s very sad to hear all of that because I know as a professional he very much cared about all of his music,” says an Indian Springs alum who was part of the choral program but wants to remain anonymous. “He was very proud of his choir, so this is obviously a side to him I didn’t know and didn’t expect. If I’d been a parent at the time and my child was in the choir and all of this had come out, I would be horrified, honestly."

Dr. Thomas won the school’s Outstanding Alum award in 2016, though now the school’s website doesn’t list a winner for that year.

Indian Springs sent two more letters in August, then in October, revealing more allegations against former educators. The school says it’s putting in new procedures, including giving mandatory training on recognizing the signs of educator sexual misconduct to all faculty and staff and will require it annually going forward, enhancing the background checks for faculty, staff, and adults living on campus, and implementing an anonymous reporting system.

When asked if the school’s done enough, the alum said “I don’t think you can ever do enough, personally. These are serious allegations, these are kids that were hurt, so as a community and as a school, being as transparent as possible is so important, and I’m sure they could do more.”

When asked if too much trust was placed in the faculty, the alum said “Probably. Nowadays we need to watch our kids carefully especially after all of this, I think perhaps yes, too much trust.”

We reached out to First Presbyterian who confirmed the letter’s authenticity and also told us more people have come forward to them since they sent that letter to the congregation. The church says they have consulted their attorneys but haven’t contacted law enforcement.

Indian Springs School referred us to the letters they sent to alumni when we asked some follow up questions. Those letters say they have reported the allegations to the “proper legal authorities.”

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