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Teacher resigns following alleged sexual activity with student

Teacher resigns following alleged sexual activity with student

UPDATED 1/24/2020: Following several meetings with the alleged victim and family, the District Attorney's Office declined to file charges in this case. Anyone accused of a crime is considered innocent until proven guilty. 

A math teacher at Jackson County Early College has surrendered his teaching license following an investigation into alleged sexual activity with a student at the school. 

Search warrants filed at the Jackson County Courthouse issued April 17, April 18, April 22 and May 1 outline the probable cause for investigating the teacher, who worked at the early college from September 2013 through May 2019. He had previously taught math at Smoky Mountain High School from January 2006 to July 2010, serving as the football coach there from January 2006 to December 2008. 

According to the warrants, Superintendent Kim Elliott filed a report with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office April 17 after she was informed that a student at the early college had come to one of its counselors earlier that year to talk about text messages she’d been exchanging with the teacher that were “pushing the boundary” of inappropriate.

Over spring break, the counselor said, the student had sent the teacher a text message and sexting photos, with the teacher sending a reply indicating his sexual arousal. The counselor told Elliott that he saw the response from the teacher on the phone of the student, who turned 18 over spring break. The teacher was 49 at the time of the alleged actions. 

In addition, the counselor said, the student told him that she and the teacher met at the Jackson County Airport twice. The first time the two “made out,” and the second time they “were more intimate and there was sexual touching,” the student told the counselor, according to the search warrant. 

During the course of the investigation, detectives seized the teacher’s phone and the counselor’s laptop and logbook. They also searched the student’s phone, digital content from all three parties, the counselor’s office and the Snapchat accounts of both the teacher and the student. 

“Every day, the safety and well-being of more than 3,700 students are entrusted to us,” Elliott said in a press release issued May 23. “I assure you that we do not take that responsibility lightly. We will continue to fully cooperate with law enforcement and follow district policies and procedures that are designed to protect our students.”

According to the press release, none of the “alleged inappropriate actions” took place on Jackson County Public Schools property, and action was taken as soon as the early college principal alerted Elliott about the allegations. Elliott then immediately contacted the sheriff’s office, which initiated an investigation. 

The teacher was suspended with pay on April 17, the day the alleged conduct was reported. When the sheriff’s investigation was ready for release to the school system, JCPS began its own inquiry, initiated May 2. 

“Due process was followed, and as of May 3, 2019, [the teacher] was no longer an employee with Jackson County Public Schools,” Elliott wrote. “I requested the surrender of his teaching license and [the teacher] complied.”

It has now been more than two months since the alleged conduct was reported, but no charges have yet been filed. However, prosecution is not off the table. 

“We are still evaluating and dealing with that decision,” said District Attorney Ashley Welch. 

The crime that would be involved, should charges be filed, does not have a statute of limitations. 

The Smoky Mountain News reached out to the teacher via email with an opportunity to comment on this story but had not received a reply as of press time. It is the paper’s policy not to identify the victims of alleged sexual crimes. 

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