VALPARAISO, Ind. (STMW) — A Thomas Jefferson Middle School teacher has been charged with three counts of theft after authorities said he admitted stealing money from other teachers’ desks over spring break.

Randal S. Kerns, 56, of Valparaiso, was arrested Thursday by Valparaiso police after school officials alerted them of the thefts. Kerns has been released after posting bond.

The thefts have been occurring for the past two to three years, according to court documents.

Valparaiso Superintendent Michael Berta said the district suspended Kerns in early April after school officials learned of the allegations. Berta said Kerns submitted retirement papers this week.

In documents filed in Porter Superior Court, Kerns, a 33-year veteran science teacher, is accused of entering Jefferson Middle School during spring break. A school resource officer examined camera footage during that period that showed Kerns entering the classrooms of three teachers where money was reported missing.

In the three separate felony counts, Kerns is accused of taking $20, $10 and $5 from fellow teachers’ desks. In most cases, the teachers didn’t realize money was missing until they checked.

Authorities said key fob records for the year showed numerous entries by Kerns on Saturdays and Sundays. In addition, the records showed he entered on school days as early as 5 a.m., a couple hours before school starts.

In an interview with police, Kerns admitted taking the $20 and that he also took about $5 from another teacher’s desk.

Kerns told police he’d go looking for teaching aids, crackers or food to give to the animals in his classroom and then admitted on most occasions, he was looking for money to steal.

Kerns said over the two to three-year period, he obtained a couple hundred dollars which he did not plan to pay back. He told police it was his way of dealing with “personal issues.” Kerns said the thefts took place so often, that he has no recollection of how many times he did it. He said he used his key in classroom doors he knew it would fit.

Berta said the School Board will act on Kerns’ retirement at its May 15 meeting. He said students weren’t involved in any of Kerns’ alleged thefts.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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