Teacher faces abuse charges
By Marty Roney
Montgomery Advertiser

PRATTVILLE -- A Prattville man who was working as a substitute teacher at Prattville Elementary School faces sex charges after students say he abused them.

Terry Cleveland Wright, 59, of 1268 Plum St., was arrested late Friday night on a sex abuse charge, Police Chief Alfred Wadsworth said. Seven fourth-grade girls, all 9 or 10 years old, have reported being abused, police reports show.

Wright could not be reached for comment. He was working as a substitute teacher Friday afternoon at the school. The charges involve improper touching, according to arrest reports.

He will no longer be employed as a substitute, said School Superintendent Larry Butler.

"It's not our job to determine guilt or innocence, it's our job to protect the children," Butler said Monday. "We are cooperating fully with authorities. I can't tell you how angry this makes me."

Wright, who was placed in the Autauga Metro Jail, is out on a $5,000 bond, jail records show.

The seven cases will be presented to the February session of the Autauga County Grand Jury, Wadsworth said.

"Of course I'm angry about what happened, but I'm glad the girls went to their teachers to tell them what was going on," said a father of one of the victims, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of his daughter. "We all want to get to the bottom of this."

Wright has worked as a substitute teacher since the beginning of this academic year. He was called to come to the school Friday about noon, when a teacher became ill, Butler said. He had been at the school for 90 minutes when a girl approached the assistant principal.

"The girl said something had occurred which made her uncomfortable," Butler said. "Mr. (Jim) Abraham was informed, and immediately sent for Mr. Wright. Mr. Wright was told to leave the campus, and that Mr. Abraham was going to contact the police."

Abraham is the school's principal.

The cases will be "thoroughly investigated," said District Attorney Randall Houston, who serves Autauga, Elmore and Chilton counties.

"These cases are particularly disturbing because they involve children and a person in a position of trust," he said. "Children deserve to feel safe at their schools. If you prey on children in this circuit, we're going to do everything we can to put you in prison for a very long time."

The school system requires all substitutes to pass background checks before they begin work. Wright was fingerprinted and passed background checks by the FBI and Alabama Bureau of Investigation, Butler said. Substitute teachers are placed in a "pool." Most of the time, it's the teacher's responsibility to make sure a substitute is in place if class time is missed.

Once in the pool, substitutes undergo periodic checks throughout the year. If they are arrested and charged, the school system is informed.