Former students and alleged victims of the Arrowhead Elementary School teacher accused of inappropriately touching students testified about his popularity and behavior on Thursday in Delaware County Common Pleas Court.
Matthew Rausenberg, 40, of Columbus, frequently shook his head during testimony from his former second- and third-grade students and their parents throughout the day.
The students testified that they and other girls frequently climbed into Rausenberg’s lap to read for him.
“I saw other girls do it so I thought it was OK,” one girl, now age 10, told the jury.
The students testified that they never saw male students in Rausenberg’s class sit in his lap.
The girls testified that, while they were in Rausenberg’s lap, he would put his hands on their thighs and touch them up and down their legs.
The oldest of the alleged victims, now 17 years old, testified that on several occasions she had to pull her skirt down because Rausenberg had pulled it up when he was rubbing his hands on her legs.
Rausenberg was issued a formal warning from the Olentangy Local School District in November 2012 for letting a female student sit on his lap.
One girl testified that her mother had told her not to sit in his lap, but she still frequently did so. She said she didn’t tell her mother about Rausenberg rubbing her legs.
Nearly every witness who testified Thursday told the jury that Rausenberg preferred female students and picked favorites among them.
The former students said it was not uncommon for Rausenberg to hold female students’ hands when leading the class out of the room or to give his students back rubs.
Rausenberg was very popular among their children, the parents all testified, and students were eager to earn “tickets” in his classroom. One student testified that students who performed good deeds for themselves or other students got tickets they could later redeem for candy or other prizes. The girl elaborated that Rausenberg had to see students perform the good deeds in order to get the tickets.
County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien and first assistant prosecutor Kyle Rohrer earlier played a video for the jury that, police say, was found on a cellphone in Rausenberg’s classroom after his March 16 arrest. The video depicts Rausenberg touching a second-grade girl in 2014 while she sat in his lap.
The trial will continue Friday. Officials from the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office said Thursday that one more victim and her parent would testify Friday along with three law enforcement officials.
The jury is comprised of seven men and eight women, including alternate jurors.
Rausenberg faces a total of 34 charges of gross sexual imposition, five charges of kidnapping, and three charges of pandering sexually oriented material. Prosecutors said there are nine alleged victims in the case — all former students of Rausenberg — and all of them would be testifying before the trial is over.
Prosecutors said the kidnapping charges relate to when Rausenberg physically held students to keep them from leaving.
The trial began Tuesday.
Rausenberg was being held in the Delaware County Jail Thursday night.
Rausenberg resigned his position with Olentangy schools shortly after his arrest.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.