Former Austin school worker pleads guilty to molestation

Published 4:45 pm Saturday, November 24, 2012

AUSTIN — A former Southgate Elementary School teacher’s aide who denied allegations he molested two students has changed his plea to guilty.

Richard Dale Burch, 55, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of gross misdemeanor fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of felony second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim younger than 13.

According to the Mower County District Court complaint, Burch reportedly touched an 8-year-old girl’s genital area while he was supervising a bus trip to a roller rink in Brownsdale on Dec. 17, 2010.

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When officers questioned him, Burch said he hugs students if they initiate contact, and he buys them candy and allows them to sit on his knee. Burch apparently called the girl’s parents around five times asking if the girl could come on the bus trip. He also gave the girl, her sister and their parents gift cards for Christmas.

According to court documents, Burch also asked the girl to sit in his deer stand with him in fall 2010, but the girl’s parents did not permit her to do so.

Burch is also accused of touching a 16-year-old girl’s genitals on numerous occasions over the last few years. The girl, who is mentally and physically disabled, told police Burch had rubbed her leg several times on the bus. Burch apparently takes the girl and her friends swimming in the summer, and he has allegedly put his hand inside her swimsuit bottoms when he picks her up and throws her in the pool, according to a court complaint.

Burch’s sentencings are set for Feb. 21, 2013.