A Montgomery County Catholic school early education teacher remained behind bars Wednesday, suspended from his job, after being charged with multiple child sex assault counts stemming from an alleged incident with a 3-year-old girl.
A judge arraigned Michael Barbee, 32, of Yeadon, Pennsylvania on Saturday with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a minor under 16 years old, aggravated indecent assault of a minor under 13 years old, unlawful contact with a minor and related charges. The charges date to Feb. 7, online court records said.
Barbee teaches at Saint Francis of Assisi School’s Early Learning Center in Norristown, Pennsylvania. The school referred NBC10’s calls to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
The Saint Francis Parish placed Barbee on administrative leave Friday after learning of the criminal investigation, archdiocesan spokesman Kenneth Gavin told NBC10.
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“Over the course of the weekend, Mr. Barbee was subsequently arrested by the Norristown Police Department and charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a minor and other related charges,” Gavin said.
Police began investigating Barbee after a 3-year-old girl complained of pain, said Norristown police in a criminal complaint obtained by NBC10's Deanna Durante.
Barbee initially denied having touched the girl but changed his story after taking a polygraph test, police said.
Barbee told investigators he put his hand down the girl's pants during nap time after the girl called him "stupid" while he was alone in the room with the girl and her classmates, said police. The girl said "ouch" and the incident last about 10 seconds, Barbee told police.
"Barbee admitted this contact was of a sexual nature," the criminal complaint said.
"These charges are serious and disturbing," Gavin said. "The Archdiocese is cooperating fully with law enforcement regarding this matter and remains fervently committed to preventing child abuse as well as protecting the children and young people entrusted to its care."
Barbee had no teaching duties at the actual parish school, only at the early education center, which is located in a separate building on the same grounds, Gavin said. In any case, the parish shared information on the arrest with early learning center families, parish school families and religious education families affiliated with the parish.
Prior to be being hired in the fall of 2015, Barbee passed background checks and had no previous indications of abuse, Gavin said.
The archdiocese referred questions about the nature of the abuse to Norristown police.
Barbee remained jailed Wednesday on $750,000 bail. Online court records don’t list an attorney who could comment on the allegations.
The archdiocese urged anyone with information about sexual abuse allegations to contact the Victim Assistance Office of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at 1-888-800-8780 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone with more information about Barbee is asked to contact Norristown police at 610-270-0977.