Former Boardman teacher pleads to sex offense

By Denise Dick


A former Boardman High School teacher will be sentenced Nov. 4 on a sexual battery charge, accused of having a sexual relationship with a student between 2007 and 2009.

The English teacher, Joseph Cleghorn, 34, of Stoney Creek Court, Boardman, waived indictment Tuesday and pleaded guilty to a bill of information charging him with sexual battery, a felony.

Boardman Police Sgt. Chuck Hillman, the school resource officer, said he was contacted by school district officials after Cleghorn contacted them.

Schools Superintendent Frank Lazzeri said Cleghorn notified the high school administration that a former student had sent text messages and Facebook posts to his wife.

Tim Saxton, principal at the time, “put two and two together,” Lazzeri said. “We felt there was probably more to it.”

Lazzeri said school officials didn’t talk to the woman, and Cleghorn denied that any inappropriate behavior had occurred.

But the school district notified Hillman, who then contacted the woman.

A police report filed last March says that the former student, now 22, was involved in a consensual, sexual relationship with Cleghorn from 2007 to 2009 while she was a student at Boardman High School and he was a teacher. She was 16 when the relationship began.

The woman, who declined to be identified, told The Vindicator in an interview that she engaged in sex with Cleghorn initially at his home in Salem and then at an apartment he got in Boardman. The relationship continued until about midway through her senior year. She said he broke it off to become involved with another teacher.

The woman said she contacted Cleghorn’s wife about six months ago, shortly after having a child of her own.

“I didn’t want to even think about someone doing something like that” to her own child, she said.

Up to that point, she hadn’t even told her parents about the relationship with Cleghorn. She’s been in counseling since she was a teenager but says she’s doing well.

“Telling my parents was the hardest thing,” the woman said.

It was so difficult, she had to write it down, rather than tell her mother — who cried when she learned what her daughter had been through. Both the woman’s father and stepfather were angry.

She said the whole family plans to attend Cleghorn’s sentencing in November.

The woman said she wants people to know what happened, and she doesn’t want it to happen to anyone else.

“There’s not a day that goes by that it doesn’t come up in my mind,” she said.

Neither Cleghorn nor his attorney, Ron Yarwood, could be reached.

Cleghorn, who also was a Boardman High School assistant football coach, was placed on administrative leave last spring, and he resigned, effective at the end of the 2012-13 school year. Lazzeri said Cleghorn worked in the district for six to eight years.

Last July, in a consent agreement with the Ohio Board of Education, Cleghorn acknowledged being “engaged in conduct unbecoming a licensed educator by allegedly failing to maintain appropriate student-teacher boundaries.”

Cleghorn’s teaching license is suspended through its September 2014 effective date; he’s prohibited from any “educational activities, coaching activities” or other duties requiring a license or permit from the Ohio Department of Education; and he agrees not to reapply for any license, permit or certificate with ODE.