Accused West Hartford Man Not Permitted in Elementary School

Scott Russell Backer. Photo courtesy of West Hartford Police

West Hartford Public Schools administrators say that Scott Backer, who was arrested by police on Monday and charged with enticing a minor, will not be allowed at the school his child attends while his case is pending.

By Ronni Newton

A West Hartford man who was arrested Monday on charges of enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity will no longer be permitted to enter the school where his child is currently a student, the principal confirmed Tuesday.

“Until this issue is resolved he’s not going to be allowed into the school,” Webster Hill Elementary School Principal Jeff Wallowitz said late Tuesday.

Wallowitz said that Scott Backer is listed as a room parent for his child’s third grade class at the school, but “wasn’t an active volunteer in the classroom.” He has one child at the school, Wallowitz said.

Backer, 39, has been living right across the street from Webster Hill Elementary School.

He was arrested and charged by West Hartford Police on Monday.

Police confirmed Tuesday that Backer was released from custody after posting $150,000 bond.

West Hartford Police began investigating Backer earlier this year after being made aware of an incident that took place in a Walmart in Cromwell.

Police said that they received the complaint and began their investigation on Feb. 7, 2017, after learning that Backer had used the “Yik Yak” app on his cellphone to speak with someone he believed was a 15-year-old girl.

According to police, Backer had met the person with whom he had been chatting at the Walmart in Cromwell on Jan. 12, 2017. Instead of a 15-year-old girl, the person was instead an adult male who was part of the “prey on predators” (POP) group of citizens who try to catch potential sexual predators before they act.

The man asked Backer “why he was there to have sex with a minor” and multiple other questions, and videotaped the entire encounter, which began in the girls clothing department. He followed Backer through the store. When Backer reached the store’s exit, the video shows him running away.

Another law enforcement agency began the investigation, but it was turned over to West Hartford Police after a determination that the alleged crime of enticing took place in West Hartford.

Backer had been employed at Wesleyan University in Middletown as an associate dean of students until last June. Prior to joining Wesleyan, he had been an advisor and teacher at Vermont Academy, a boarding school in Saxtons River, VT , but was dismissed in 2007 after allegations of inappropriate conduct with a female student. That case was settled out of court in 2011.

Wesleyan University Manager of Media and Public Relations Lauren Rubenstein said in an email Tuesday that Backer was terminated from the university on June 10, 2016.

“The university learned of his alleged misconduct at a former job from a Boston Globe reporter, immediately investigated the matter, and terminated him within 24 hours,” she said.

As part of his position at Wesleyan, Backer had been responsible for sexual misconduct hearings. Rubenstein said that the University immediately began an investigation to ensure that cases had been handled properly.

“Immediately following Backer’s termination, Wesleyan engaged Pepper Hamilton, a nationally renowned firm with expertise in campus discipline and Title IX policies and processes, to conduct an external review and audit of the most recent three years of cases in which Backer participated as the hearing chair or hearing panel member. Pepper Hamilton concluded that Backer exercised his role in a manner consistent with University policy and procedures,” Rubenstein said.

“Wesleyan also engaged the Victim Rights Law Center (VRLC) to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the ways in which our Title IX policies and practices affect students, faculty, and staff. We have begun work on developing specific recommendations based on the VRLC report,” said Rubenstein.

Rubenstein also provided a copy of a statement Wesleyan President Michael Roth sent by email Tuesday to all students:

“Like many on campus, I was angry and upset at the news last night that former Associate Dean of Students Scott Backer, fired from Wesleyan last summer, had been arrested yesterday and charged with sexual misconduct. This incident should remind us of the importance of supporting survivors of sexual assault and educating ourselves about the problem of sexual discrimination, harassment and violence,” Roth wrote.

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