SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ–A first-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Edison was arrested February 14 after an investigation by South Brunswick Police into a party at her house the night before.
Tracey Harding, also known as Tracey Stricker, was charged with Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a second-degree crime punishable by 5-10 years in prison, after a 15 year-old male was allegedly found highly intoxicated in the basement of her Homestead Lane residence.
The teen–described as semi-conscious and slurring his words–was transported by local EMS to Saint Peter’s Hospital in New Brunswick, where he was treated and released.
Reports indicate that other teenagers were also drinking at the teacher’s home, in what one report characterized as a birthday party. Harding's son turned 15 on February 14.
Harding was also suspended from her job by the Edison school district. The Board of Education, which meets February 23, has an item on its agenda to place Harding on administrative leave with pay, effective February 17.
Harding has been a teacher at the district since 1991. State pension records indicated she made over $103,000 last year. Harding was voted Teacher of the Year at Lincoln Elementary School in 2002.
Authorities became involved after the drunken teen’s mother attempted to contact her son and was unsuccessful.
The woman apparently then contacted Harding directly, who stated to the mom that her son was sleeping. Concerned that something was amiss, the mother drove to the residence where the party was in progress.
Before arriving at the residence, the mother contacted South Brunswick Police.
Harding was arrested and processed at the South Brunswick Police station. She was released from police custody after posting $2,500 bail on the second-degree charge.
While generally considered low for a second-degree offense, New Jersey bail guidelines promulgated by the Administrative Office of the Courts do not list a bail range for the offense Harding was apparently charged under.
South Brunswick Police did not immediately respond to a request for records related to the case.
A request to review the South Brunswick Municipal Court file was denied. The court clerk told Edison Now that the entire file had been sent to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, and that the court did not keep copies of complaints sent to the county.
Harding graduated from Rutgers in 1987 and earned a Master’s in Education from Kean in 1998.
She is a frequent and well-reviewed contributor on a teachers’ professional website, and has written several books on teaching methods. One of her e-books has been downloaded over 92,000 times and appears to be well-reviewed by her peers.
Harding is no stranger to legal trouble. Foreclosure proceedings on her home have been ongoing for several years.
Records also show she was previously sued by Capital One Bank, with Harding ultimately satisfying the judgment after some $3,000 was garnished from her wages.
On February 20, Harding posted about the child endangerment case on her Facebook profile:
“I can't possibly thank all of you who've offered love, support, and mostly, belief in who I truly am as a person. I've know some truly awful people in this world, but I'm blessed to say that I know hundreds of heartful, selfless, good ones.”
Her post received more than 100 "likes" and numerous comments of support.