Fairfield High School counselor, coach charged with sexual battery

Fairfield High School counselor, coach charged with sexual battery

Fairfield High School guidance counselor Craig Harden allegedly had two sexual encounters with a Fairfield High School student at her home, according to police records.

Harden, 43, of Liberty Twp., was arraigned in Fairfield Municipal Court today on two counts of sexual battery, both third-degree felonies. His bond remains at $250,000.

Fairfield police detectives told this news outlet that they received a call from Fairfield High School administrators on Wednesday about the alleged inappropriate relationship and began an investigation.

According to police, Harden began his relationship with the victim at the beginning of September and it was ongoing until school administrators received allegations of the relationship.

Harden was interviewed at the Fairfield Police Department early this morning. He was arrested at 2:27 a.m. today.

“Mr. Harden told me that he did in fact have sexual intercourse with the known underage victim on two separate occasions at her home,” according to the police report by Officer Aaron Meyer. “Mr. Harden told me that the two became close in the late summer months of 2017.”

Fairfield Municipal Court Judge Joyce Campbell denied Harden’s request for a court-appointed attorney because of his salary of $53,000.

Fairfield City Schools Superintendent Billy Smith released the following statement:

“Craig Harden, a guidance counselor at Fairfield Senior High School, was placed on administrative leave on October 25. Our district was made aware of allegations and immediately contacted the Fairfield Police Department. The district has been cooperating fully with the Fairfield Police Department and will continue to do so. Once the district was made aware of the allegations and a criminal investigation began, Mr. Harden was immediately placed on administrative leave. He will stay on administrative leave pending board consideration of the matter on Nov. 2.”

According to a review of Harden’s school personnel file — obtained through an Ohio Public Records request Thursday by this news outlet — Harden earns an additional $8,667 annually for working as an assistant coach for the Fairfield High School girls basketball team and coaching the girls golf team.

Harden, who graduated from Vandalia Butler High School north of Dayton and earned a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., was hired by Fairfield City Schools in 2011.

A review of his annual job evaluations since joining the district revealed no previous warnings or reprimands, and he earned consistently high marks and praise for his work with students and school parents.

Harden also earned a Masters in School Counseling from Xavier University in 2011.

From 2001-2001 he was a professor at the Cincinnati Nazarene Ministry Development Center. He also was the assistant men’s basketball coach at Cincinnati Christian University from 2006 to 2009.

In 2010 he did his teaching internship at Butler County’s Madison Local Schools and worked as an assistant to that school’s junior and varsity boys basketball programs. He was then the head girls basketball coach at West Carrollton High school during the 2011-2012 school year.

In his 2016 job evaluation from Fairfield Schools, Harden was praised by his supervisors as someone who “works hard to have a trusting rapport with the students.”

“He is highly visible and students are comfortable talking to him,” supervisors wrote of Harden.

Harden remains in the Butler County Jail on a $250,000 bond and was ordered to not make contact with the victim or her family. A preliminary hearing has been set for Nov. 9.

Staff writer Lauren Pack contributed to this report.

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