Belpre High Principal Pepper agrees to counseling after arrest

Charge will be dropped after he completes program

BELPRE — A Belpre High School principal will have to complete counseling as part of a domestic violence plea.

Samuel Pepper, 51, of 714 Tuttle St., Belpre, was arrested Sept. 3 and charged with one count of domestic violence and one count of unlawful restraint. The charges stemmed from a domestic dispute between Pepper and his wife.

Pepper pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Pepper on Wednesday agreed to a plea deal in Marietta Municipal Court. Court officials said the charge of unlawful restraint was dismissed, and on the charge of domestic violence agreed to “counseling in lieu of conviction.” If Pepper completes the counseling program, the domestic violence charge will be dropped, officials said.

Pepper was hired June 27 by Belpre City Schools as principal of Belpre High School. He has continued to work in the position since the arrest.

Belpre City Schools released a statement Thursday afternoon.

“Yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon, Belpre City Schools was notified that the criminal justice process against our high school principal Mr. Sam Pepper has completed and, assuming the terms of the court’s order are completed, will result in no conviction.

“Due process for all is a fundamental right that we teach in our classrooms and as a public employer it is a right we must extend to our employees. Ohio law requires a connection and/or a criminal conviction for a school district to take disciplinary action against an employee based on being charged with a crime. While the legal case against Mr. Pepper proceeded, the district performed an internal investigation which was assisted by outside legal counsel. Our own investigation determined that there was no connection between Mr. Pepper’s alleged out of work conduct and his position in the district and, after interviewing all relevant witnesses, we uncovered no evidence of a violation of board policy and therefore no legal standing to take disciplinary action.

“During Mr. Pepper’s tenure as principal we have seen an increase in school spirit and pride by our student body, more consistency in the implementation of the code of conduct and board policy as well as a commitment to help improve Belpre High School’s facility, course offerings, culture and outcomes. We express our support and confidence in him to lead our high school into the 21st century.”

Michael Erb can be reached at merb@newsandsentinel.com.