Jackson teacher charged with sexual assault, suspended from job

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JACKSON – A Jackson Memorial High School mathematics teacher and basketball coach has been suspended from his job and his coaching position following his arrest on charges of aggravated sexual assault.

On Jan. 14, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office announced the Jan. 13 arrest of William J. O’Neill, 53, of Jackson. O’Neill was charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Jackson School District administrators said O’Neill was hired as a math teacher in 2015 and was the assistant coach of the girls basketball team at Jackson Memorial.

O’Neill was arrested by detectives from the prosecutor’s office and the Jackson Police Department. Law enforcement authorities did not identify the gender of the child allegedly involved in the matter, but said the child is between the ages of 13 and 16.

The incident is alleged to have occurred between the summer of 2018 and Jan. 12, when it was disclosed, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Following the announcement of O’Neill’s arrest, administrators in the school district sent a letter to parents and staff members regarding the situation.

The administrators said they were informed by Jackson police on the evening of Jan. 13 that a district teacher had been arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault and related offenses. They said the alleged offenses did not occur on school property.

“In accordance with state law, the employee (O’Neill) has been suspended with pay during the investigation. He will not be permitted on school property. Our district will continue to work closely with law enforcement and our school resource officers during the investigation,” school district administrators said.

The administrators said the situation “is a police matter, which means the district is not at liberty to discuss it further. However, we do want our community to understand the strict policies and procedures we have in place to protect our students.

“All district employees undergo a criminal history background check before they commence employment in the district to ensure they are free of any criminal record. The district is alerted immediately of any criminal charges. Those procedures were followed in this case.

“The safety and security of our students and staff is our most important priority. As this involves a district staff member, we want our families to know that if any student needs help processing this information, we encourage you to contact your school’s guidance counselor or principal,” school district administrators said.

Each teacher at Jackson Memorial High School has a web page. On the morning of Jan. 15, a message was posted on O’Neill’s web page which said, “Due to an unexpected absence, Mr. O’Neill’s classes will be taken over by one of our Jackson Memorial High School teachers for the rest of the semester.

“We want you to know we are aware this is a busy time in the semester and that we are committed to maintaining a strong continuum of instruction for our students. Our teachers are all veteran educators who are experienced teaching these courses (Algebra 2 and Honors Algebra 2). They are looking forward to providing a seamless transition for our students.”

During a Jan. 15 Board of Education meeting, Superintendent of Schools Stephen Genco addressed the matter, saying, “Obviously over the last couple of days there has been much struggle, to be quite honest, when you are notified … a staff member has been arrested and (have to) work with (police) … to make sure we are doing everything we need to do to ensure the safety of the entire community. That kind of gets lost in the shuffle.”

Genco said that “by law, an employee is innocent until proven guilty, but by law, we can suspend an employee with pay once they are charged and that is what is happening tonight. … That employee will not be permitted on school property. Our district will continue to work closely with law enforcement to get updates and the status of the case, the whole nine yards.”

The superintendent said that is all he or board members can say about the situation, adding, “that is all I will ever be able to discuss unless (O’Neill) gives me permission to make everything public and I have never seen that (done).

“The board has been counseled to not speak about it at all, but please do not take the board’s silence on this matter as if they could care less because that is certainly not how they feel, but they are certainly limited by what they can say,” Genco said.

The prosecutor’s office said the investigation regarding O’Neill is ongoing. Individuals with information may call Detective Stephanie Bayha of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-929-2027 or Detective Michael Goelz of the Jackson Police Department at 732-928-1111.