West Ada

West Ada principal accused of abuse wants to work. Will district renew his contract?

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A West Ada School District principal accused of abusing two of his children in their Canyon County home hopes to return to work, and he has asked a judge to amend a no-contact order that prohibits him from being around children.

While facing felony charges, Star Middle School Principal Tony Nelson could seek renewal of his contract. Teacher and administrator contracts are drawn up and signed on or before Aug. 1 each year, according to district spokesman Eric Exline.

“The district is aware that he’s trying to come back to work,” Exline said.

A jury trial has been set for Oct. 15, well after the new school year will start.

District officials have decided to have Star Middle School Vice Principal Tyler Pence continue to serve as acting principal for the start of the 2019-20 school year, Exline said.

Nelson could be hired for a different job to start the school year, and if exonerated of the alleged crimes, could resume his position as principal, Exline said. He is an at-will employee, so the district could also opt to not hire him back in any capacity.

“I’ve been here 21 years, and this is unique,” Exline said. “We never had this circumstance before.”

Nelson, 50, and his wife, Pamela W. Nelson, 49, were indicted in May.

Pamela was charged with three felony counts of injury to children. She’s accused of withholding food from the children, locking one child in a room for long periods of time, and hitting one with a spoon in the buttocks so hard that it left bruises.

The alleged abuse occurred between Jan. 1, 2016, and Jan. 24, 2019, at the Nelsons’ home in Canyon County. The children are now 10 and 14 years old.

Pamela Nelson’s trial is set for Sept. 17.

Tony Nelson was charged with two counts of injury to children. According to the indictment, he’s accused of allowing food to be withheld from a child long enough for the child to become malnourished and/or allowing a child to be locked in a room causing extreme mental suffering and/or hitting a child, leaving bruises on his buttocks or lower back area.

“The allegations here are significant,” said Nelson’s attorney, Michael Bartlett, at a hearing in late June, according to a recording of the hearing. “I would point out, for your honor, that the allegations largely are that he allowed his wife to commit these offenses, although there is an allegation that Mr. Nelson himself struck a child. They are serious, but they are limited circumstantially to his home and specifically to two children in his home that were adopted.”

Nelson and his wife have nine children, including two adopted children. His salary is $95,875 a year, and he has been on paid leave since he was charged, Exline said.

The district had previously announced that Nelson was on unpaid leave — but due to some concern by district officials about the wording of the no-contact order, he was paid in June and July, Exline said. The confusion was over whether the order prohibited him from being around all minors at his home address, or all minors anyplace.

At the June 24 hearing, Barlett told 3rd District Court Judge Gene Petty that he wanted to take some time to craft an amended no-contact order. He said Nelson, in his role as an administrator, interacts primarily with other adults, and the order would ensure that he is not alone or interacting with any children outside the presence of other adults.

Petty said he’d allow Barlett and prosecutors to come up with an amended order and submit it for the court’s approval. It does not appear from online court records that it has been submitted yet.

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