After 17 years, Acker’s shunned accuser vindicated?

Published 5:39 pm Thursday, January 5, 2012

By AMY JONES / Associate Editor

When Montevallo resident Beverly Watson saw the news that former Alabaster school teacher Daniel Acker Jr. had been arrested and charged with sexually abusing former students, 17 years’ worth of frustration immediately turned to vindication.

She then got in her car and drove to the offices of the Shelby County Reporter.

Watson said 17 years ago, she lived in Acker’s neighborhood. She remembers accusations from a neighborhood girl, who was also one of Acker’s students, that he molested her.

Daniel Montague Acker Jr.

Watson said there was a school board hearing concerning the accusations, and instead of being dismissed, Acker was given tenure.

Watson vividly recalled one incident when Acker allegedly gave a test to the alleged victim’s class that contained a question about the color of the alleged victim’s underwear.

Shelby County Schools spokesperson Cindy Warner said she could not comment specifically on Watson’s claim about the test question, but that such allegations could have been part of a 1992-1993 investigation into claims of child abuse against Acker.

According to a Shelby County Schools statement, in October 1992, Acker was placed on leave by the Shelby County School System and relieved of his teaching duties while allegations of child abuse were under investigation. In November 1992, the accusations against Acker were presented to a Shelby County grand jury, which did not indict him.

On Feb. 8, 1993 the Shelby County Board of Education held a termination hearing against Acker. After a lengthy hearing to consider the evidence in the case against Acker, the board voted unanimously not to terminate him. Acker was then reinstated as a fourth-grade teacher at Creek View Elementary School.

Watson said after Acker was accused, the First Baptist Church of Pelham held spaghetti suppers to raise money for his support.

“We held a candlelight vigil for the victim, and five people came,” Watson said.

In an email, First Baptist Church of Pelham Pastor Mike Shaw said an event to raise support for Acker during the 1992-1993 investigation was held at his church. However, the event was not a church-sponsored event; rather, the event was planned by an Acker family member who was a member of First Baptist of Pelham and held at the church.

“I am very sorry for the victims of Mr. Acker and for all victims of sexual abuse. Our church practices a zero tolerance of abuse, whether sexual, physical, verbal or psychological,” Shaw wrote in the email. “It has never been my intent as a pastor or the intent of our church members to support anyone engaged in any criminal activity.”

Pounding a table, Watson said she felt mixed emotions upon hearing of Acker’s arrest.

“(I feel) happiness that he’s in jail where he should be,” Watson said. “(But) it’s sadness because all these people supported him and he was out for 17 years, and there’s no telling how many children he has molested during that time.”

She said she hopes any other possible victims will come forward.

“I hope all his other victims for the past 17 years come forward and get their justice,” Watson said.