ZIONSVILLE, Ind. -- A former gymnastics coach pleaded not guilty before a judge Friday, after being charged with molesting young girls during practice.
Kenneth "Andy" Arnold, 28, had been working at InterActive Academy since about 2009, according to Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer. Earlier this year, a young girl told her parent that Arnold had "touched (her) four-five times under her leotard while doing a gymnastics skill," court paperwork said.
The gym let Arnold go in January, and sent a letter to parents about him. After that, two more young girls, ages 10 to 12, came forward.
Meyer said it took nine months to file charges because of the sensitive nature of the case and the fact that it involved young kids.
"It takes a while to move through, we want to get it right," Meyer said.
While Meyer said the gym was cooperative and the reporting channels worked as they should, court paperwork did reveal that the gym reprimanded Arnold in May of last year "regarding concerns over his touching of students."
A witness had come forward, saying "Arnold was touching the girls more than she felt necessary," and "would at times help the girls up off the mat and also tickle them." She said that while most girls didn't seem to care, "one girl in particular would rush to get off the mat before Arnold could touch her."
The gym's director documented the incident in Arnold's file, noting that he had been instructed of proper interactions with children and told in an email, "No holding, hugging, touching athletes to tell them to tighten up. No tickling or carrying kids on back."
Meyer said that because there were not allegations of abuse, the gym was not mandated to report that incident. It did report the January allegations to the Department of Child Services, which then involved police.
While Meyer said he had no evidence any other children were involved, he did encourage parents to talk with their kids about abuse and the need to report it. In this case, two girls initially denied any inappropriate contact, and the third said "she was too scared to say anything at the time."
"Children need to know that this is wrong, they shouldn’t feel any guilt, it’s not their fault, and that if they do talk about it, they’ll be safe," Meyer said.
A judge reduced Arnold's bail on Friday. In a statement, USA Gymnastics said it has suspended his membership "pending the conclusion of the legal proceedings."
InterActive Academy's Director of Risk and Safety, Brian Kidder, released this statement:
"In January 2016, InterActive was contacted by law enforcement regarding a parent's allegations that one of our coaches, Andy Arnold, had improper contact with a student during practice. Since that time Mr. Arnold has not been at our facility, and he is no longer employed by InterActive Academy. We promptly informed parents about the situation, as our first priority is to ensure the health and well-being of the children and families we serve.
InterActive cooperated fully with law enforcement during the investigation of these allegations. We have confidence in the criminal justice system and will continue our full cooperation with the involved authorities. We do not have any additional information to add at this time. "