Teacher fired after texts with student
A male substitute teacher at Central High School violated Mesa County School District 51 staff conduct policies, but committed no crime when he sent a series of flirting, sexually suggestive text messages to a 15-year-old female student last month, authorities said Wednesday.
The substitute teacher, who is 25, was terminated Dec. 11 from the substitute program when the text messages were brought to the attention of school staff, District 51 spokeswoman Christy McGee said. He’d been substitute teaching locally since the start of the fall semester, McGee said.
“We certainly don’t want people who behave like that to be working with kids,” McGee said. “We are concerned.”
McGee added, “We’re glad people are feeling comfortable enough to report it and we can get the wrong people out.”
The matter was referred Dec. 12 for investigation by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, which has since closed the case.
“Investigators were unable to substantiate that a crime was committed,” sheriff’s office spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said.
The case at Central is the second reported in just the last month involving a male staffer with District 51 and investigated by local police for alleged inappropriate contact with female students. The Daily Sentinel Nov. 15 reported on a Fruita police investigation involving a full-time teacher at Fruita 8/9 School, who remains on paid leave amid claims he sent inappropriate Facebook messages to former students, all girls, at Fruita Monument High School.
Fruita Police Chief Mark Angelo said Wednesday that investigation continues.
McGee said the two cases are “isolated incidents.”
“We try to hire the best people who are a good fit for where they are going to be working,” McGee said, adding substitutes and full-time teachers alike submit fingerprints for background checks before state teaching licenses are issued.
“It’s hard to predict people making mistakes,” McGee added.
District 51’s “professional boundaries” policy prohibits teachers from engaging in sexual innuendo and banter with students, or communicating with students via text message or social media without consent of a parent or guardian.
REPORTED TEXT CONTENTS
In the Central probe, deputies first met with the 15-year-old girl Dec. 11 and she explained the substitute in question “would pay extra attention to her.”
“(Girl) said he would stare at her and he would pull her aside and work with her one on one,” reads a case report.
The girl said he never made inappropriate comments, but would discuss going on dates with women. She thought that was odd conversation to have with a teacher. Deputies also reviewed records of a long text message exchange between the two, which happened on Nov. 19.
The exchange includes:
Substitute: “I need to find one (girl) whose good in bed and crazy enough for me to hang out with. Not too crazy where I cant stand it. Do you know anyone like that at least 18. Not in hs.”
Girl: “Not really”
Substitute: “Why can’t you be older (smiling face)”
Girl: “Hahahahahaha. idk”
Substitute: “Don’t maybe me (expletive). U know ur sexy.”
Girl: “What you gonna do??
Substitute: “Smack you. Smack your ass. I’ll stop now. Probably crossing some line.”
Girl: “Ok probably best”
Substitute: “I would prefer you to tell me to keep going but ok. Your choice”
Later in the text exchange, when discussing appropriate dress for a school function and the location of the event, the substitute texted to the girl, “U lie Ill kill u.”
Girl: “Lie about what?
He replies, “I’m kidding relax!” He apologizes.
She said she was disturbed by the comment.
Conversation ends with messages from the substitute’s phone: “Ok sorry won’t text you again. C ya later.”
He had also sent her a picture message.
“It should be noted,” the sheriff’s report says, “the picture (teacher) sent to (girl) was a picture of two human fingers. On the fingers was a drawing in blue ink of what looked like a masked man holding a knife to another person. I asked (girl) if this scared her and she said it kind of freaked her out.”
A least one other girl at Central said she felt uncomfortable with the substitute because he’d talk to her about his “dating life.”
He also worked this past semester at Fruita Monument High School. This past Tuesday, a 17-year-old girl told investigators the substitute had passed his cellphone number to her one day, according to the sheriff’s report. The girl referred to him as a “creeper.” “She said she got that feeling from him and she felt like he was trying to flirt with her at times,” the girl told investigators.
She said he’d “followed” her for a period on Instagram, while posting on one of her photos that she was “pretty.” He eventually deleted the comment, the report said.
Away from the classroom, the girl said the substitute explained he also worked “at a male strip club” and a store at Mesa Mall.