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Wellsboro, Pa. -- The most recent school board race in the Wellsboro Area School District saw the election of three write-in candidates elected to the board over current member Rebecca A. Charles, who lost her bid for re-election.

According to official results, Charles, whose name was on the ballot, received 1,193 votes compared to 1,397 write-in votes for the eventual winner, Noyes Lawton.

Lawton, 46, was a child care worker at Laurel Youth Services in Blossburg in 2001 when he plead guilty to misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a minor and corrupting the morals of a minor. According to court records, charges of institutional sexual assault were dropped through a plea agreement.

Although the woman did not want charges against Lawton to be filed, it was reported they had consensual sexual intercourse between March and August of 2000. The woman was 17-years-old at the time the incidents occurred. Not long after Lawton then served time in county prison for his first DUI.

Court records indciate Lawton has two DUI's, including one from 2016. For that charge, Lawton received 60 days to six months in jail for DUI, $300 fine, 12 months drivers license suspension for a second charge of DUI, six months probation, $300 fine, consecutive," according to the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, which published the notification.

Some taxpayers raised concerns over Lawton’s recent election to the board. District parent Sandy Beideman said she was disappointed with this most recent election.

"I’m concerned that someone who has spent time in jail for endangering the welfare of children and corruption of minors has been voted onto our school board. I think it’s wonderful that he has taken responsibility for his crimes and changed his life around, but I don’t think the position of school board member is appropriate for someone with that type of criminal background," said Beideman, a mother of two. 

Beideman added that school board members have a vast amount of power in employee contract negotiation for benefits, salary, curriculum and certain personnel issues, and said they should be held to the same standards as teachers and be able to pass similar background checks.

"In my opinion, he only won because he ran on an anti-mask platform," Beideman said.

Lawton previously sought election to the Pa. state house of Representatives in 2020 as a Libertarian against current State Rep. Clint Owlett. He is a U.S. Marine who completed his undergraduate at Michigan University and holds a masters degree from Grand Canyon University, according to Tioga Publishing.

According to Stuart Knade, chief legal counsel for the Pa. School Boards Association, “Surprisingly, you will not find this general disqualification or any definition of ‘infamous crime’ stated in any statutory provision of the School Code, Election Code or any other Pennsylvania statute.”  

Knade said that you would have to look at various court decisions to learn that infamous crime includes any felony and misdemeanor offenses involving deception, fraud, theft or other similar crimes involving dishonesty or the abuse of public office.

He went on to say that Lawton’s convictions as described would have otherwise prevented him from being an employee of the school district, but would not make him ineligible to serve as a school director. 

When reached for comment, Lawton said he feels he has "done everything in my power to take responsibility for my past. Not only did I further my education and obtain a master's degree, I have also worked to become a positive member of our community by opening a small business, volunteering and taking an active role in my children's lives."  

Lawton said that choices he has made in his past forced him to become a more introspective person which enabled him to gain a better understanding of who he is. "That helps me understand where other people are coming from. I feel that communication is now a strong point for me, and that I am able to keep groups of people moving forward in a positive direction."

As it stands, anybody with charges on their record pertaining to minors likely would not be eligible for employment in any school district. However, there are minimal to few requirements for any person to run for and serve on a school board. Lawton was asked about how his presence on the board may give some parents cause for concern.

"There are many roles within a school district," Lawton said, saying he believed the current system is equitable. "Some roles require direct supervision of students and some do not. A school director is focused on more of the business side of the district, which involves maintaining fiscal responsibility by forming budgets and keeping taxes at appropriate levels."

"I care about my children and this community, and I truly just want the best for Wellsboro School District," Lawton added.

Lawton will take his seat with other school directors at the districts re-organization meeting on Dec. 2 in the Old Music Room at the districts Administrative Office at 227 Nichols St. in Wellsboro at 6:30 p.m.

Superintendent Dr. Brenda Freeman was reached about this article on behalf of the Wellsboro School District but respectfully declined to comment.


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