Loophole in law allows teacher to avoid sex charges

Tooele County attorney claims student victim was of legal age

TOOELE Utah (ABC4 Utah) - A high school teacher avoided criminal charges because of a loophole in the law.

"This shouldn't be going on in schools at all," said Scott Broadhead, the Tooele County attorney.

But it happened in December at Tooele High School.  A resource officer learned nude pictures of a teacher were being passed around.
Those nude pictures were posted on social network according a police report obtained by Good 4 Utah.

The teacher, who also coaches at the high school was brought in for police questioning in December.  Good 4 Utah is not publishing his name because no criminal charges were filed.

According to the police report he confessed claiming "he touched her (private parts)" ... and they sent about "20 nude photographs to each other."

Despite the confession, the Tooele County attorney couldn't file charges.

"Because she is an adult," said Broadhead. "She's 18 years of age. She claims there was no coercion."

In December, a spokesperson for the Tooele County School District said they were aware of the allegations but still was allowed to teach.  He resigned Friday.

But back in December, the district did refer the case to the state office of education.

Ben Rasmussen is with the Utah Professional Practices Advisory at the state Office of Education.  They investigate teacher misconduct.

"We have a flag on his file and if anyone looks him up and is considering hiring him from this point they can see that flag on his file that they should contact us before they take any action," said Rasmussen.

For now, the most this teacher can expect is to lose his license.

The county attorney says Utah's law is protecting these kinds of teachers.

"They shouldn't be looking at their class saying, 'hey, that's part of my dating pool'" he said. "That's a bad idea."

What happened in Tooele now has the attention of Rep. Paul Ray.

"I think we need to look at the letter of the law," said Rep. Ray. "If this is not violating, it is concerning because our whole intent is to protect students regardless of their age. If you're a high school student, you need to be protected."

Rep. Ray said he will consider asking the Republican caucus to allow proposed legislation to address this loophole.

In December when Good 4 Utah first asked the Tooele County School District to respond to the investigation, a spokesperson said the district had no comment.  When asked if the teacher was still working at the school, the spokesperson said he was.  The spokesperson said the district referred the case to the state office of education and would allow due process before taking any action against the teacher.

Wednesday, the Tooele School District issued this statement to Good 4 Utah:

"We do not have a comment regarding the current law. We support any measure to increase professional boundaries and student safety.
(Teacher) resigned Friday, Jan. 20th and is no longer teaching ... or coaching at Tooele High School.

This is the third incident of sexual misconduct between a teacher-student this year within the Tooele School District.  A Grantsville High School football coach-teacher was charged in the fall and a military instructor at Tooele High was also charged in December.  The district contends the military instructor was not an employee but did teach ROTC-typle classes at the school.  

Again, the district issued a statement about those cases: "This is not an organizational issue. These are individual issues. The majority of employees are moral and hard-working individuals.
We have no tolerance for sexual misconduct of any kind. A teacher has the responsibility as a figure of authority to be professional and not propagate inappropriate behavior.
We have taken this opportunity to continue and increase the discussion with our staff regarding boundary violations, using technology in a safe and effective manner, inappropriate behavior, documenting, reporting, and more."  

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