The Clarksburg/Bridgeport community is in shock over the arrest of Josh Nicewarner on sex charges involving a 14-year-old girl. Nicewarner is a physical education teacher at Liberty High School in Clarksburg, where the girl is a student.
According to the criminal complaint, Nicewarner is accused of distributing obscene matter (a video of himself) to the girl and encouraging the victim to “send photos of herself in various stages of undress and/or simulating sexual acts.”
The allegations have garnered even more attention because Nicewarner is the head coach of the highly successful Bridgeport High School football team.
Harrison County School Superintendent Mark Manchin told me yesterday on Talkline that school officials were unaware of the allegations until law enforcement notified them last Friday, the day Nicewarner was arrested. “I was shocked,” Manchin said. “Coaches, teachers, administrators… nobody had a clue.”
Manchin moved quickly, and appropriately, to immediately suspend Nicewarner, and he will recommend to the Harrison County School Board tonight that Nicewarner be fired. That may not be necessary because Nicewarner may resign before then.
This is a shameful situation. Most people know Nicewarner as the football coach, but Manchin reminded me Monday that he is a teacher first. “For the life of me, I just don’t understand why somebody would participate in such reckless behavior,” Manchin said.
Additionally, Nicewarner’s friends are at a loss to explain how the married father of three would ruin his own life while causing severe pain and damage to his family. The victim’s name is being kept out of the news, which is essential. However, word tends to spread and that will make life extremely difficult for her.
The conduct is also predatory. Teachers hold important professional positions in our communities. After parents, they are often the most influential people in the lives of children. As such, they have an obligation to look out for them.
The Association of American Educators Code of Conduct says educators must make “a constructive effort to protect the student from conditions detrimental to learning, health, or safety.” According to the allegations, Nicewarner failed to live up to that responsibility.
Manchin and the Harrison County school system deserve credit for acting decisively. Unfortunately, there have been multiple examples—Penn State and Baylor come to mind—where sex scandals were covered up or glossed over by people in positions of authority and responsibility.
Manchin said he hopes the controversy does not stain Liberty or Bridgeport High Schools, and barring information suggesting a wider scandal, it should not. However, it’s still going to take the community time to recover from the shock.