A former Shafer Middle School teacher charged with sexual battery against more than one of his students in 2019 will have his charges dismissed and record expunged after serving three years of probation, according to a plea agreement reached last week.
Robert Ring, 50, who taught sixth-grade social studies, was also ordered to surrender his teaching license, pay $630 in restitution and perform 500 hours of community service by Sumner County Criminal Court Judge Dee David Gay.
Ring was arrested and charged June 7, 2019 with two counts each of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony, and assault for four separate incidents that occurred in April and May of 2019.
He was charged with aggravated sexual battery for allegedly approaching a 12-year-old student from behind while the student was standing at a locker that was jammed and rubbing his pelvic area against the student’s backside. The incident was captured on the school’s video surveillance system.
In the second aggravated sexual battery charge, Ring was alleged to have used his hand to force the head of a student less than 13 years of age to touch the teacher’s groin area.
The two assault charges stemmed from the teacher allegedly rubbing a student’s thigh in a sexual manner and inappropriately touching another student while in class.
As part of the plea agreement, the charge of aggravated sexual battery involving the student at the locker was amended to aggravated assault, Judge Gay said during a hearing on Sept. 17.
Gay noted that the sentence range for the charge, a Class C felony, is three to six years in prison at 30 percent. Ring accepted the minimum sentence of three years – all suspended, Gay noted. The other charges were dropped by the prosecution.
Gay also said that Ring is required to have no contact with the victims and that he can’t be employed where minors work.
“If you successfully complete probation, this manner can be dismissed and expunged,” the judge said.
When asked to present the state’s proof, Assistant District Attorney Jenni Smith said a victim testified that he was attempting to release a jammed locker when Ring came up behind him on May 15, 2019. The teacher put his genital area on the victim’s back while making a statement similar to, “I know you like it,” she said.
Smith said it was also determined that during this time Ring was making “inappropriate jokes and inappropriate demonstrations sexual in nature to groups of students at the school – inappropriate for kids that age.”
All the kids in this case said Ring was their favorite teacher until he started this behavior, the assistant district attorney added.
Prosecutor cites medical condition
Smith proceeded to give an explanation for Ring’s behavior.
“During spring break of 2019, the defendant did have hip surgery. It was determined that after he came back from his hip surgery is when this odd behavior started to happen,” noted Smith, adding that Ring has had no complaints as a teacher for 20 years.
Smith said that the state requested that Ring complete a psycho-sexual evaluation and “tests.”
“As a result of that evaluation and some tests, General Whitley and myself feel like the defendant’s behavior was the result of a medical condition,” she said.
“You don’t believe the psycho-sexual report revealed any risks? Is that correct?” Gay asked.
Smith said that was correct.
“Let the record reflect that I know how sensitive this area is but I have talked to the D.A., I have talked to Mr. [John] Pellegrin here. Based on the particular nature of this case, and the evidence in this case, the psycho-sexual evaluation and the medical situation with the defendant,” Gay said before asking Ring if he was guilty of aggravated assault.
“Yes, sir,” the former teacher replied.
The victim’s mother said she hadn’t told her son about the plea hearing, but had asked him to write down his thoughts about what happened.
She read a statement from her son.
“I have been affected by Mr. Ring’s actions to the point of having suicidal thoughts,” he wrote.
The child recounted the incident at the locker and also wrote about when Ring placed his hand on the boy’s thigh.
“I looked at my friends and I said ‘help,’ silently,” he wrote. “He moved his hand up farther and I froze.”
“Mr. Ring has forever changed my life. If I hadn’t spoke up it would have proceeded…I refuse to walk down the sixth-grade hall so I don’t have to relive that pain.”
The mother started to cry as she continued to read her son’s words.
“God says to forgive, but I do hope he is punished for his actions because I will never be the same.”
The mother gave her own statement.
“I want you to understand that in three years this doesn’t go away for him,” she said. “I don’t know what caused it all to happen, I just want you to understand that in three years when your life goes back to normal his doesn’t.”
The judge then added to Ring’s sentence.
“Thinking about this, and trying to figure out what needs to be done. I think one additional thing needs to be done,” said Gay. “I’m going to impose 500 hours of public service. He needs to get that done in three years and that will be my order.”
When reached after the hearing, Smith said she could not comment about what type of a medical condition Ring had that made him act inappropriately. Pellegrin declined to comment as well.