Middle school teacher fondled young girls during a YMCA gym class in TN, reports say

A middle school teacher fondled and made inappropriate comments to three young girls during YMCA gym classes, Tennessee officials say.

Robert Hardeman, 53, was charged with aggravated sexual battery after multiple girls reported he had stared at them, touched them or made inappropriate comments to them during gym classes at the Hamilton Family YMCA, an affidavit said, according to WSMV.

Hardeman was arrested Tuesday, Jan. 24, WDEF reported.

Officials learned of Hardeman’s behavior Thursday, Jan. 19, after one girl told her parents about the class, the affidavit said, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. After hearing about the class, the girl’s dad called the police, but Hardeman had already left the YMCA and was unreachable, the news outlet reported.

The girl explained that Hardeman frequently stared at the girls’ breasts and bottoms, and ran closely behind them to stare at their bottoms, WSMV reported. She also said Hardeman placed his hands on the girls’ lower backs and bottoms when they bent down, the news outlet reported the affidavit said.

Hardeman also told one girl he’d be willing to “take you to the track, especially you,” the affidavit said, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Chattanooga Police Department did not immediately return McClatchy News’ request for comment.

The YMCA said it suspended Hardeman and barred him from the premises while the investigation is underway, a spokesperson told McClatchy News.

“We’re a family organization and we take these allegations very very seriously,” the spokesperson said. “The safety of all children in any of our programs is our top priority.”

Hardeman also worked as an Exceptional Education Inclusion Teacher at East Hamilton Middle School, a spokesperson for Hamilton County School District told McClatchy News. As of Friday, Jan. 20, he was suspended from his role without pay.

The spokesperson said it was Hardeman’s first year at the school, but he has been working for the district since 2005.

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