According to the Heflin, Ala. Police Department,they have arrested Bronson Shay Ward, 33, teacher and coach for the Cleburne County High School, charged with sexual encounters with students. He has been employed by the school since the 2009-2010 school term, serving as physical education teacher, varsity girls basketball coach and has served as the assistant coach for the varsity girls and the junior boys basketball teams in the past.
Ward has been charged with five counts of a "school employee engaging in a sex act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student under the age of 19 years." Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if Ward is found guilty in all counts.
Heflin's interim police chief A.J. Benefield said the case began several weeks ago when he and another investigator received information about sexual misconduct between a teacher and a student. Investigators found more than one victim.
"Through the help and some of the victims coming forward and their cooperation and all, it's come to an arrest after getting enough information to do a warrant," Benefield said. He added that he was concerned that there may have been more students involved..
Benefield declined to say how many students were involved, and is withholding their ages to protect the identities of the victims. Chief Benefield said the misconduct goes back to 2009, which was Ward's first year at the school. Investigators believe some of the contacts happened at Ward's home in Calhoun County.
The case is still under investigation as police work to determine if there are additional violations. Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact Heflin police at (256) 463-2291, and ask to speak with Chief A.J. Benefield or investigator Josh Barnett.
Ward remains in the Cleburne County Jail with bond set at $230,000. Attorney Bill Broome, who is representing Ward, said there is a hearing scheduled for Wednesday at 2:30 p.m on arguments to reduce Ward’s bond, which he calls exorbitant.
Calhoun County District Judge Chris McIntyre has set Nov. 7 for a preliminary hearing on the current charges.