Cleburne County coach charged with having sex with student
by Laura Camper
Sep 30, 2013 | 22886 views |  0 comments | 75 75 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bronson Shay Ward
Bronson Shay Ward
HEFLIN – A Cleburne County High School teacher and coach was charged Friday on five counts of having sex with or engaging in deviant sexual intercourse with students under the age of 19.

Bronson Shay Ward, 33, is charged with crimes spanning from November 2010 to May 2013, said Heflin police Chief A.J. Benefield. Warrants for Ward’s arrest show he is charged in the cases of two alleged victims. Four of the warrants were filed in Calhoun County related to events that allegedly took place in Ward’s home, said Jennifer Weems, a Calhoun County assistant district attorney. One warrant was filed in Cleburne County related to incidents that took place at the school, she said.

Each charge can carry a sentence of two to 20 years if a defendant is convicted, said Weems, one of the attorneys prosecuting the case.

Ward, a White Plains-area resident, formerly coached the varsity girls basketball team at the high school, Benefield said.

Ward has worked with the school system since 2004, first at Fruithurst Elementary as a physical education teacher, according to attorney Donald Sweeney, who represents the school system. He transferred to the high school for the 2009-10 school year. The Cleburne County High School website lists Ward as teaching physical education and an “access to online lab,” along with junior high boys basketball.

Attorney Bill Broome, who is representing Ward, said there is a hearing scheduled for Wednesday at 2:30 p.m on arguments to reduce Ward’s bond.

“His bond is exorbitant,” Broome said. “He’s not a flight risk. He’s a lifelong resident.”

Ward Monday afternoon remained in the Cleburne County Jail. His bond was set at $230,000, said Lane Kilgore, Cleburne County Jail administrator. The Calhoun County bonds of $50,000 each are cash bonds, Kilgore said. They require Ward to provide $200,000 in cash so he can be released, Broome said.

“I don’t know many people who could do that,” Broome said.

Broome was unsure if the hearing will be in Heflin or Anniston.

Sweeney wrote in an email that Ward, as a tenured employee of the system, remains an employee until he resigns or is terminated.

State criminal law allows teachers accused of having sex with students to be placed on paid administrative leave while the charges are adjudicated, with further disciplinary action to be determined after the case has made its way through courts.

The warrants specify that Ward is not to be on school property, attend any school functions or have any contact with the victims.

Ward, like all employees of the school system hired since 1999, was subject to a background check before he was hired, Sweeney wrote.

Ward is scheduled to appear before Calhoun County District Judge Chris McIntyre for a preliminary hearing on the charges Nov. 7 at 1:30 p.m.

Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.

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