Predators in Minnesota Schools

 Adult charged in alleged sexual assault of a student at a Mankato school


Adult charged in alleged sexual assault of a student at a Mankato school

The child's mother expressed to the officer that she had "real" safety concerns, and that her daughter was "too shook up" to return to school.

An 18-year-old man has been charged in an alleged sexual assault of a student at a Mankato school earlier this month.

Abdirahman Jama Samatara of North Mankato has been charged with gross misdemeanor counts of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving non-consensual contact and indecent exposure or lewdness in the presence of a minor under the age of 16.

The charges filed in Blue Earth County District Court state that an officer met with the dean of students at a school in Mankato about an incident that occurred on March 6.

The victim, who is a minor, reported that when she left a classroom to use the bathroom, Samatara exited the same classroom soon after and waited outside the closed door until the victim returned.

Once the victim returned, Samatara put his hand out and grabbed the victim’s arm, spun her around, and grabbed the victim in a sexual manner and also thrust himself against the victim. The victim tried to pull away from Samatara during the incident, the charges say.

School surveillance recorded the incident and corroborated the facts as described.

The student’s mother said the girl initially didn’t want to tell her what happened because she didn’t want to cause her mother fear or anxiety. The child’s mother expressed to the officer that she had “real” safety concerns, and that her daughter was “too shook up” to return to school.

The specific school location is not listed in the complaint, which also does not state whether Samatara is a student at the school. Mankato Area Public Schools ISD 77 did not respond to an email request for comment and clarification in time for this report. A report from The Mankato Free Press claims the alleged assault took place at Mankato West High School.

There is no booking photo available of Samatara because he’s been charged by summons, as opposed to an arrest warrant, and has not been booked into custody at this time.

No future court date for Samatara was immediately available on the county court calendar at the time of this report.

 Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.

Former middle school paraprofessional sentenced to 20 years in child sextortion case

Between April 1, 2016, through Aug. 20, 2021, Anderson used his position as the forum administrator to groom minors to produce child pornography and engage in sexual activity with him.

Glen Robert Anderson (Sherburne County Jail)

A former middle school paraprofessional who worked in special education within the Anoka-Hennepin School District has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for a sextortion scheme that targeted minors through social media and an online gaming forum.

Court documents in the case say Glen Robert Anderson, 24, of Coon Rapids used multiple internet applications and social media accounts for email, file sharing, and chatting with minors, including Snapchat and Grindr.

Anderson also owned and administered an online gaming forum. To participate in the forum, users were required to submit an application, which included the age of the user. As Anderson knew, many of the users were minors.

Between April 1, 2016, through Aug. 20, 2021, Anderson used his position as the forum administrator to groom minors to produce child pornography and engage in sexual activity with him, including by providing minors with in-game perks, privileges, and other gifts. For example, Anderson coerced a 13-year-old victim to engage in sexually explicit acts for the purpose of producing images and videos. Anderson later threatened to release those sexually explicit images if the victim did not respond to Anderson’s demands.

Other court documents including charges filed in August in a third-degree criminal sexual conduct case in Anoka County District Court describe that Anderson had repeated explicit sexual contact with a Coon Rapids minor starting when the child was age 14. The case also describes that Anderson lived in his father’s Coon Rapids home and that sexual contact between Anderson and the victim occurred at both Anderson’s home and the victim’s home.

Anderson pleaded guilty on June 28, 2022, to two counts of production of child pornography, one count of enticement of a minor, and one count of interstate communications with intent to extort. He was sentenced on March 15, 2023, before Chief Judge Patrick J. Schiltz.

Unlike Minnesota state sentencing that only requires offenders to serve two-thirds of their sentence incarcerated, federal inmates must serve a minimum of 85% of their sentence incarcerated. Anderson’s prison sentence will be followed by 12 years of supervised release.

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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.


Parents accuse Little Falls school officials of failing to keep students safe

The superintendent admitted a nude video of a student was taken and shared with other students but reserved his harshest words for parents who spread "misinformation."

Little Falls
Little Falls parents accused school officials of failing to keep students safe during a Dec. 19 board meeting. (Little Falls Community Schools/YouTube)

Warning: The contents of this article may be disturbing to some readers.

Little Falls parents accused school officials of failing to keep students safe and attempting to “cover up” a recent incident involving a disabled middle-school student during a school board meeting this week.

Parents who spoke at the meeting claimed a disabled, nonverbal autistic boy was “the victim of a horrible crime” at the hands of two other students in a bathroom last month. Superintendent Greg Johnson objected to some community members who have described the incident as a sexual assault.

He did, however, admit “a student in our district took a Snapchat of another student who was in the bathroom.”

“The picture did include nudity. The student who took the video shared it with a small group of other students. The district became aware of the video right away and took immediate action to report the matter to law enforcement, make the appropriate mandated reports, undertake mitigation efforts, and address student consequences,” he said in a statement shared with Alpha News.

He confirmed the student who recorded the video is no longer enrolled in the district.

“The boy who held the door shut and sent it out to the most people was only suspended for two days,” according to Cassie Fredregill, a Little Falls parent.

Fredregill, who attended the meeting, said the board is accusing parents of spreading misinformation and trying to “downplay” the incident.

“From what I understand, two boys took an autistic boy into the bathroom. One held the door shut while the other asked the student to undress from the waist down and perform inappropriate sexual acts, taped it on his cellphone, and sent it out on Snapchat,” Fredregill claimed.

According to Fredregill, the autistic child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and should be accompanied by a para at all times while at school.

“I believe the school is trying to cover it up because they want everyone to believe that things that happen nationwide aren’t happening in Little Falls. I believe they don’t want the public to know because they’ll have to be held accountable,” she said.

Fredregill said she thinks the punishment was too light. It’s unclear if the student who recorded the video was expelled or voluntarily left the district.

Johnson said he “cannot and will not share any other description of the situation” in order to maintain “the data privacy rights of all involved in this matter.”

“It was handled swiftly, correctly, and with the support of our legal counsel. There was no need to send out a press release or anything like that because there was not any potential for harm beyond the one student victim,” he said, repeatedly acknowledging that the disabled boy was a “victim.”

Johnson concluded his statement by condemning “misinformation,” which “causes harm to students.”

“I do want to address the intentional spreading of misinformation,” he said. “This type of behavior, such as publicly writing that the student victim was ‘sexually assaulted’ by the other student, only serves to stoke fear and causes harm to students. I encourage parents or citizens who have questions or concerns to reach out directly to the district so that accurate information can be provided.”


Ex-teacher accused of grooming student, pleads guilty to child endangerment

Hollenbeck was first charged with one count of endangering a child in October after an investigation found that Hollenbeck was allegedly texting a student that he had fallen in love with her.

Eden Prairie High School (Google)

(Daily Caller News Foundation) — A former Minnesota teacher is pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of endangering a child after being accused of grooming a student, according to Fox 9.

A former teacher at Eden Prairie High School, 51-year-old Craig Hollenbeck, messaged a student about his “undeniable” feelings during the 2020-2021 school year, which experts told investigators was grooming, according to Fox 9. Hollenbeck is pleading guilty to a charge of endangering a child, which could result in a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail with two years of supervised probation.

Hollenbeck was first charged with one count of endangering a child in October after an investigation found that Hollenbeck was allegedly texting a student that he had fallen in love with her, Fox 9 reported. Hollenbeck would allegedly FaceTime the student and lock the classroom door while they were alone.

The relationship lasted four months during which Hollenbeck told the student his feelings for her were “undeniable,” Fox 9 reported. Hollenbeck did not face any sexual misconduct charges but experts deemed Hollenbeck’s actions as grooming, saying the relationship had the potential to “cause substantial harm” to the “emotional or mental health” of the student, leading to an endangering a child charge.

Former students of Hollenbeck’s said the teacher would message students on social media and text them after school, Fox 9 reported. Hollenbeck resigned from his position at the school in September 2021.

Eden Prairie High School and the Eden Prairie Police Department did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

December 6, 2022

Minnesota 2nd grade teacher arrested after video shows him encouraging students to touch his genitals

Minnesota 2nd grade teacher arrested after video shows him encouraging students to touch his genitals

The small town of Benson, Minnesota is in shock this week after a well-respected elementary school teacher was charged with criminal sexual conduct after video footage allegedly shows him sexually abusing students in his classroom.

Minnesota 2nd grade teacher arrested after video shows him encouraging students to touch his genitals

The small town of Benson, Minnesota is in shock this week after a well-respected elementary school teacher was charged with criminal sexual conduct after video footage allegedly shows him sexually abusing students in his classroom.

Roger Joseph Ebnet, a teacher for Benson Public Schools, was arrested Friday after Benson Police observed a video recorded on Dec 1 allegedly showing the Grade 2 teacher in his classroom with three different boys seated between his legs at various times throughout the day, according to KTSP. Each of the boys was 7 or 8 years old.

"The video shows Roger Ebnet sit up slightly and placing the boy’s hand under Roger Ebnet’s groin area," the criminal complaint alleges, stating that it appears Ebnet has the other children in the class close their eyes and face the other way while he committed this act.

In a similar incident involving a different boy recorded in the complaint, Ebnet was allegedly caught on video placing "the boy’s hands behind the child’s bottom and in front of his groin area." The accused then allegedly continued "to squeeze his thighs and make upward movements with his groin towards the child’s bottom."

The criminal complaint further alleges that there was a similar incident with a third child which took place on Nov 30. On this occasion, the video allegedly shows a child sitting between Ebnet’s legs, and Ebnet again squeezing his thighs together while holding the child’s hands. He then appears to forcibly put the child’s hands behind his back before placing his arms around the child’s chest.

"I went to school with Roger Ebnet. So did my son," an anonymous source told the Post Millennial. "We reside in the community. Mr. Ebnet is well known for being a lot of students’ favorite teacher, he was active in after-school programs including sports, and organized the yearly community celebration called 'Kid Day.'" 

"To most in the town with a population of around 3,500, the horrific news of the alleged crimes was shocking, but my gut instinct always felt something wasn’t right with him," the local parent continued. "In my life of small-town living, I’ve found it’s usually the people who try the hardest to obtain outstanding reputations that have the most to hide."

The seemingly upstanding member of the community once helped the community win a contest with Target that brought a concert to the little town with a population of just 3,480. In this YouTube video, the alleged child sex offender can be seen describing how he inspired the small town community to rally together to win the national Give with Target contest and $10,000 for their schools.

This is not the first time the small town of Benson has been rocked by a child sex abuse scandal. In 2017, former hockey coach Bradley Christopher Alasker was arrested on a felony charge of soliciting a child through electronic media after being caught in a sting operation by an undercover special agent posed as an underage girl, local news at the time reported.

Another Benson man, Luke Adam Frank, is currently serving consecutive sentences for failing to register as a sex offender and for having sexual contact with two children, according to local news.

Benson Public Schools released a statement on Facebook following Roger Ebnet’s arrest.

"The Benson School District is aware of the pending criminal charges regarding Roger Ebnet, an employee of the School District. The School District takes the safety and security of our students very seriously and has been cooperating and will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement in its investigation. Mr. Ebnet is currently on paid administrative leave.

"This is the extent of the information the School District can provide about this matter at this time. All further data is classified as private or confidential pursuant to state and/or federal law."

Ebnet appeared in court Monday morning where his bail was set at $200,000 without conditions or $25,000 with the conditions of GPS monitoring, that he have no contact with the victims and that he stay away from both the victims’ homes and Benson Public Schools property.

According to court records, Ebnet will appear in court again on Dec 14.

September 1, 2022

Robbinsdale Area Schools teacher charged with sexual abuse of minors

A Richfield man and middle school teacher in the Robbinsdale school district is charged with sexually abusing two minors over the course of several years.

Matthew Anderson Bertsch, 28, is facing two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and one count of using minors in pornographic work. The two most serious charges carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in jail and a $35,000 fine with a conviction.

According to Richfield Public Schools, Bertsch worked as an elementary substitute teacher for the district in late 2020 and early 2021. The district added that it was in distance and hybrid learning at that time, so Bertsch had limited in-person contact with students.

However, Bertsch most recently worked at Robbinsdale Area Schools. Police say he was a teacher at Plymouth Middle School.

Bloomington police say they received a report on Aug. 3 alleging that Bertsch had abused two minors — who are now adults — for years.

A criminal complaint states one of the victims estimated more than 100 instances of abuse by Bertsch, starting around 2011.

Bertsch and the victims got together frequently and the abuse happened “almost every time,” according to the complaint.

The allegations state Bertsch exposed himself to the victims and often removed the victims’ pants to expose them, too. The complaint also states that Bertsch would inappropriately touch the victims, sometimes gave the minors alcohol, showed the victims sexual videos of himself, sent sexual pictures to the victims via Snapchat, took naked pictures of at least one victim and kissed the victims’ bodies.

The incidents all are believed to have occurred in Bloomington.

Bertsch was arrested Tuesday at Fair School in Crystal and booked into Hennepin County Jail where he remained as of Thursday afternoon. His first court appearance is scheduled for Friday afternoon.

Below is the statement released by Robbinsdale Area Schools on Thursday:

A teacher who works for Robbinsdale Area Schools was arrested Tuesday by the Bloomington Police Department. The arrest involving the teacher, Matthew Bertsch, happened at noon at the Fair Crystal School. Mr. Bertsch has been employed with the district since September of 2021.

Staff in Robbinsdale are focusing on what is most important at this time of the year – welcoming students and families back to school beginning next week.

This situation is a police matter and further inquiries should be directed to them.

Robbinsdale Area Schools



July 4, 2022

As Proctor sex assault cases come to a close, questions about a toxic school culture remain Judges sentenced both a former high school football player and a former teacher last week for sexual misconduct crimes. 

DULUTH — The Proctor school district begins class this fall with a new superintendent and football coach, a fresh start for a community that faced widespread scrutiny amid back-to-back sexual assault cases last fall.

But characterizations of a toxic culture within the football program linger, even called out by a Duluth judge June 20 during the sentencing of the former football player who attacked his teammate.

A coach either created or permitted such a culture, and school staff and parents knew and failed to intervene, Judge Dale O. Harris said.

"It's clear to me the problem went deeper than one action on one day," Harris told a juvenile courtroom filled with the suspect's and victim's families.

Several instances of troubling employee behavior have plagued the school district of about 1,800 students: four male teachers have been charged with or accused of sex crimes within the last 16 years, and a number of complaints were filed against the football coach throughout his career.

A canceled season

Proctor residents and families reeled after the football team allegations surfaced in September, coming just a month after a middle school teacher was charged with molesting a student.

Both cases came to a close in late June. Todd Clark, a former middle school teacher, basketball coach and Proctor graduate, was sentenced to four years in prison for molesting one of his former students dozens of times, even threatening his own life if she didn't keep it a secret.

In the other case, a former Proctor student and football player was charged in January with felony sexual assault involving a plunger. That came after a lengthy investigation that began in mid-September, following a complaint of "student misconduct" within the football team.

It led to the resignation of coach Derek Parendoand the cancellation of the football season. The charged teen pleaded guilty in May under an agreement that kept him within juvenile jurisdiction, and he was sentenced to supervised probation. If he violates that, he is subject to a four-year prison sentence.

Both the former football player and the teacher must register as predatory offenders.

The Star Tribune typically doesn't name juveniles charged with crimes. He was 17 at the time of the assault.

'Concerning conduct'

Some have said a long history of behavior by school employees ranging from inappropriate to criminal, dismissed or quietly handled, may have paved the way to the football assault.

Five complaints were filed with the Proctor school district against Parendo, a 1992 Proctor graduate, between 2007 and 2021, according to a public data request. None of the complaints made to the district resulted in disciplinary action, rendering the nature of each complaint private information.

But two matters involving Parendo ended up in court. A harassment restraining order filed against him by a former Proctor teacher and cheerleading coach was dismissed in court in 2019, and a personal injury lawsuit involving a football player and a broken leg from an alleged "fight circle" was dismissed in 2010.

Tiffany Quade, who taught art at the high school, alleged instances of physical assault, stalking and uninvited visits by Parendo in court records filed in 2019. She said they began in 2017.

Quade, who did not respond to interview requests, alleged he touched her inappropriatelyin several separate instances. She also described several instances of him staring at her inappropriately and finding ways to be near her and speak to her.

Judge Eric Hylden ruled that nothing she accused him of amounted to physical or sexual assault. The school district, in its own prior investigation, court records indicate, found "concerning conduct" but no credible evidence of sexual harassment, and made arrangements to give Quade space from him.

Cynthia Graves filed a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of her son against the Proctor school district in 2009, according to court records. Parendo, in a Duluth News Tribune story from that time, said the boy's broken leg occurred during a 2008 "tackling activity" before practice.

Parendo said the activity wasn't supported by coaches, who were unaware it was happening. Graves contended they did know about the "fight circle" tradition and failed in their coaching duties when leaving players unsupervised. It is unclear what a fight circle consists of. The case was dismissed in 2010. A confidential settlement was reached between the Graves family and the school district, said Robert Falsani, the Duluth attorney who represented Graves.

Parendo didn't respond to recent interview requests. In an interview in October before complaints came to light, Parendo said the school district made him a "scapegoat" last fall. As a coach, he promoted a culture of discipline and accountability, he said, calling the football incident "isolated."

Sexual misconduct

The school district has employed several men who were eventually accused of or convicted of sex crimes.

Two Proctor teachers were accused of sexual misconduct in the last decade: along with Clark, the former teacher, a math teacher died by suicide in 2011 amid an investigation. Court records also show two other former Proctor teachers – employed by the district at the time — were convicted of prostitution-related crimes, one in 2006 and one in 2011.

Theresa Shanoff, a union representative who taught in the district for 30 years before retiring in 2019, said the football team attack is part of a larger cultural problem stemming from district leadership.

Kids likely saw the way some administrators treated staff and teachers — many who felt unsupported and afraid of former superintendent John Engelking, she said, who forbade staff from speaking publicly on controversial issues.

"Great teachers" work there, Shanoff said, but leadership seemed to put image before kids and employees.

Engelking, who retired this summer, said that any insinuation he's put students or employees at risk for the sake of his image is "false."

"The district follows state law in conducting criminal background checks on prospective employees," he said, and employees are annually notified of the district's policies and expectations related to sexual harassment and appropriate conduct with students, including periodic training.

"The district has never ignored any alleged misconduct toward staff or students that were brought to its attention," Engelking said.

'A healing process'

Now, school district leaders are looking to unite a community devastated by the trauma of the past year. During February superintendent candidate interviews, Proctor School Board chair Jennifer McDonald told one candidate what she'd like from a new leader.

The Proctor community has suffered, she said. "It needs to heal and move forward in a positive way, and rebuild trust."

New superintendent Kerry Juntunen, who plans to immerse himself in school and student life, hopes to help.

"Culture is built over time obviously, and it can be eroded over time," he said. "But the culture is the community together — it's not one person. You don't come in to heal the community, but you make yourself available to the healing process. That's what I will be here for."

Juntunen, who retired as leader of neighboring Hermantown schools in 2020, said on his first day last Friday that he'd already met with the new football coach, Matt Krivinchuk, that morning. Creating a safe culture and sense of team belonging were the center of their discussion, he said.

"People here in this community really love their schools, and they are hurting," he said, but the new coach has experience working with troubled kids, and is ready to build an open, healthy program.

"I am 100% confident you'll start seeing changes," Juntunen said.

 May 17, 2022

At least 135 teachers, aides charged with child sex crimes this year alone 102 of the cases, or 76%, involved alleged sex crimes against students

At least 135 teachers and teachers’ aides have been arrested so far this year on child sex-related crimes in the U.S., ranging from child pornography to raping students.

An analysis conducted by Fox News Digital looked at local news stories week by week featuring arrests of teachers and teachers’ aides on child sex-related crimes in school districts across the country. Arrests that weren't publicized were not counted in the analysis, meaning the true number may well be higher.

The analysis found that at least 135 teachers and teachers’ aides have been arrested in 41 states between January 1 and May 13, which works out to about an arrest a day on average. 

The vast majority of the arrested educators were men. 

Of the 135 arrests, at least 102, or 76%, involved alleged crimes against students. 

The 135 educators included 117 teachers, 11 teachers' aides and seven substitute teachers.  

Many of the arrests involved especially heinous allegations.

On April 11, police in California charged Anthony James Phillips, a 61-year-old former teacher at Cupertino Middle School in Sunnyvale, with aggravated sexual assault of a child, forcible penetration with a foreign object, and forcible penetration with a foreign object upon a child.

Phillips is accused of raping a student in 2009 when he was still a teacher at Cupertino.

Anessa Paige Gower, a 35-year-old former biology teacher at Making Waves Academy in Richmond, California, was charged with 29 counts of child molestation on April 8. 

Gower is accused of sexually abusing seven students between 2021-2022 when she was a teacher at Making Waves, with allegations including forcible sodomy of minors and sharing sexually graphic photos over online platforms. She is due back in court on June 2.

William Landon Smith, a 31-year-old former science teacher at Cape Fear High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina, was charged with 27 counts of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, 28 counts of indecent liberties with a student, and one count of secretly using or installing a photographic imaging device to arouse or gratify sexual desire on March 18.

Smith is accused of inappropriately communicating with students via social media apps like Snapchat when he was a teacher at Cape Fear.

John M. Doty, a 35-year-old former biology teacher at Career Academy South Bend in Indiana, was charged with two counts of rape, one count of attempted rape and six counts of child seduction on Feb. 9. 

Doty is accused of repeatedly raping a 16-year-old female student and threatening to kill her. He is scheduled to stand trial in January 2023.

Danielle Fischer, a 29-year-old former substitute teacher in the Roxana and Alton school districts, was charged with criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse on Feb. 4. 

Fischer is accused of sexually assaulting two teenage male students at her home in Edwardsville during summer break last year. A Madison County grand jury later added child pornography to the charges. 

Erika Sanzi, director of outreach for Parents Defending Education, told Fox News Digital that the issue of teacher sex crimes against students needs to be more thoroughly examined by the federal government. She cited the Department of Education’s 2004 report, which claimed that nearly 9.6% of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.

"Educator sexual abuse is a major problem that largely gets ignored because it's so uncomfortable to talk about," Sanzi said in a statement. "While a very small fraction of educators and school employees prey on the children in their care, one bad actor can do damage to many students." 

"The last federally commissioned study on the issue was in 2004, pre-smart phone and those who study the issue closely say that the problem has been exacerbated by the ease of communication that a smart phone provides," she continued. "We need to get much more honest about the problem, study it again and ensure that we have policies and laws in place that protect children. It is currently legal in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for teachers and other adults in positions of authority to have sexual relationships with students once they turn 14. After a 5-year effort, RI finally appears poised to change that this year."

Sanzi was referring to a bipartisan bill in Rhode Island that would make it a crime for a teacher or person of authority to have sexual contact with someone under the age of 18.

Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said the lack of research on teacher sex crimes against students is a "travesty."

"The public school system has a serious child sex abuse problem," he told Fox News Digital in a statement. "The last significant federal study on this topic, which was conducted by the Department of Education in 2004, suggested that millions of American schoolchildren are victims of teacher sexual misconduct in each generation of K-12 students—and there hasn't been any significant research since then. 

"This is a travesty," he continued. "Parents deserve to know exactly what's happening in the public school system and deserve to have tools for protecting their children from abuse. Congress should immediately fund a $25 million research program into child sexual abuse in public schools and provide complete transparency for parents. The first duty of public schools is to keep kids safe—and, tragically, that's not happening in far too many cases."

 Jessica Chasmar is a reporter for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to and on Twitter: @JessicaChasmar.

April 27, 2022

Former substitute teacher receives 40 years in prison for child porn production, extortion

Some of the 23 minors he targeted were students at the school district where he worked as a paraprofessional and substitute teacher.

Mitchell James Ottinger/Sherburne County Jail

The U.S. District Court in Minnesota has sentenced a former substitute teacher to 40 years in prison for targeting nearly two dozen minors in a “sextortion” scheme.

Mitchell James Ottinger, 25, pleaded guilty last October to two counts of production and attempted production of child pornography, as well as one count of interstate communication with intent to extort, and received his sentence on Monday.

The Carver County man will also serve 25 years of supervised release following the end of his prison stay.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, court documents say Ottinger created fake online personas to obtain “sexually explicit images and videos” of both adults and minors. Some of the 23 minors he targeted were students at the school district where he worked as a paraprofessional and substitute teacher.

Ottinger extorted his victims by threatening the release of their images and videos if they didn’t furnish him with more. In addition to the 23 minors, Ottinger also targeted up to 19 adults.

“Today’s crippling sentence reflects the heinous nature of the defendant’s crimes, as he used his position of trust and authority to find his victims, and traumatize them,” said Michael Paul, special agent in charge at the FBI’s Minneapolis office. “Sextortion is a crime that can victimize any child and the FBI will continue to work with our partners and in our communities to make sure our children know that help is available and that we will spare no effort in hunting down their predators.”

The FBI was tipped off about Ottinger’s sextortion by one of his own victims, and the agency subsequently investigated the case in conjunction with the Carver County Sheriff’s Office.

Minnesota has long been known as one of the most lax states when it comes to punishing child predators. The Child Protection League has previously accused the state of Minnesota of “effectively [decriminalizing] the crimes of possessing, disseminating and producing pictures and videos of child sexual abuse imagery” and called it a “sanctuary state” for predators.

Ottinger was sentenced at the federal, not state, level.


November 5, 2021

NUHS phy ed teacher charged with misconduct in gym class incident

NEW ULM — A New Ulm High School Phy Ed. teacher is facing a gross misdemeanor and two misdemeanors following an incident at the school.

Eric Dennis Kauffmann is charged with a gross misdemeanor for the punishment of a child; misdemeanor assault-5th degree-fear of bodily harm or death; and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

The charges are related to an Oct. 14, 2021 incident at the high school.

According to the police statement, School Resource Officer (SRO) Andrew Achman learned of an incident involving a teacher, Kauffman, putting his hands on a student at New Ulm High School. The victim and two students witnesses spoke with Achman and Principal Mark Bergmann about the incident

According to the three student witnesses, the incident occurred during gym class in the weight room. They stated a fourth juvenile (Juvenile 4) was by the weight bench and was supposedly not doing the correct exercise. They stated that at some point Kauffmann commented “Don’t piss me off today” and grabbed the Juvenile 4’s arms to get her to do the exercise correctly.

Kauffmann then allegedly turned around and started to yell at the alleged victim, who was on another weight lifting bench resting. The victim and two student witnesses stated that it looked like Kauffmann then grabbed the bench and shook it, causing Victim 1 to fall off. They stated Kauffmann went over and lifted her by the legs off the floor. They stated that he was yelling during this incident, but not words just yelling and screaming type noises

After Kauffman set Victim 1 down, she came over to the two witnesses, upset and crying. They stated that the whole incident was awkward and that it was obvious that Victim 1 was upset. Victim 1 was still visibly shaken from the incident afterward.

SRO Achman reviewed the school surveillance video of the incident. In a review of the video, Achman was able to see Kauffmann over by Juvenile 4 and make corrections to her lifting weights. Kaufmann then turns and walks towards Victim 1 and got in her face, presumably him yelling at her.

Victim 1 begins cowering away and is clearly uncomfortable about the situation. Achman could see her fall off after Kauffmann continues to yell at her. Victim 1 then falls off the bench and Kauffmann walks over to her and grabs her legs (ankles) and lifts her up.

During this time, Victim 1 covers her face and appears to be upset with the situation. She would eventually roll over and get up and walk away. Kaufmann continues to follow Victim 1 until she reaches other students.

Achman later spoke with Victim 1. She stated Kaufmann did comment “don’t piss me off today” and was correcting Juvenile 4 with an exercise.

She stated that he then turned to her and started to yell at her. She stated that she kept pulling away from him and eventually fall of the bench is trying to get away from him yelling.

She stated that he did come over and then picked her up off the ground by the legs. She stated that when she was placed on the ground, she was eventually able to get up and walk away towards some friends. While walking away she stated that one of the students made the comment “watch out” and she realized Kauffmann was following her.

Victim 1 was not injured from either falling off the bench or when she was picked up off the ground and sat down.

Kauffmann was barred from the school campus on Oct. 15 and placed on paid administrative leave. The school district is conducting an ongoing investigation into Kauffmann’s action.

Kauffmann’s first court appearance is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 23.


Another story on the same jerk....

November 4, 2021

New Ulm High School teacher charged and on leave

NEW ULM — A New Ulm High School teacher is facing criminal charges after he allegedly yelled at students and picked one student off the ground by her ankles.

The teacher has been on leave since the incident last month.

Eric Dennis Kauffmann, 48, of New Ulm, was charged with gross misdemeanor malicious punishment of a child, misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor disorderly conduct Thursday in Brown County District Court.

Three students reported Kauffmann got upset with two other students during a physical education class in the school weight room on Oct. 14, according to a court complaint.

The witnesses told the principal and school resource officer that one student wasn’t doing a weight-lifting exercise correctly. Kauffmann reportedly said something to the effect of “don’t piss me off today” and grabbed the student’s arms and made her do the exercise.

Kauffmann then began to yell at another girl who was resting on a bench, the witnesses reported. He allegedly shook the bench, causing the girl to fall off. He allegedly then picked the fallen girl up by the ankles.

When the school resource officer interviewed the girl, she gave a substantially similar account, though she said she fell off the bench as she tried to get away from Kauffmann. She added that Kauffmann followed her after she got up and began to walk away. She was not injured, she said.

The officer reviewed surveillance video and in the court complaint the officer described seeing Kauffmann get near the girl’s face as the girl was “cowering away and clearly uncomfortable.” The girl fell and Kauffmann grabbed her ankles and picked her up, the video reportedly confirmed. Kauffmann then followed her until she walked to a group of other students.

Kauffmann was placed on paid administrative leave Oct. 15 pending investigation, New Ulm Schools Supt. Jeff Bertrang told The Freepress


 October 19, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 25-year-old Burnsville man and former substitute teacher has pleaded guilty to allegedly victimizing more than 10 minors as part of a “years-long sextortion scheme,” according to federal prosecutors.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota announced that Mitchell Ottinger specifically pleaded guilty to two counts of production and attempted production of child pornography and one count of interstate communication with intent to extort.

The former substitute teacher and paraprofessional obtained sexually explicit images and videos of minors and adults by using false online personas, according to court documents. He then threatened to release the images and videos in order to extort more images and videos from the victims.

“Over the course of several years Ottinger victimized more than 10 minors, some of whom he knew from the school district where he worked,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a release.

Law enforcement began investigating the sextortion when one of the victims alerted the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center.

It’s believed that there may be additional victims of the sextortion scheme. Anyone with information about the matter is asked to call the FBI Minneapolis Division at 763-569-8000.

A sentencing date for Ottinger has not yet been set.

Sorry, no print news on the story below, just video

October 9, 2021

UPDATE: Music Teacher Facing Child Porn Charge

LAPORTE, MN (iNewZ.TV) We have an update regarding a Laporte, Minnesota music teacher who’s facing a child porn charge.

August 19, 2021

Former Anoka school teacher pleads guilty to sexually assaulting teen boys

A former middle school teacher in Anoka who was charged with sexually abusing several minors pleaded guilty.

Jefferson Fietek, 47, of Malden, Massachusetts, was charged with 10 counts in July 2020, accused of assaulting five teenage boys as young as 14 between 2010-2019.
e counts of felony first-degree criminal sexual conduct, admitting he sexually assaulted three victims, court documents show. He also admitted to sexually abusing two other teenagers, but did not plead guilty to charges pertaining to them.

He will remain on GPS monitoring until his sentencing on Nov. 17, and is expected to receive 30 years in prison and will be required to register as a predatory offender, court filings state. 

Fietek previously worked in the Anoka-Hennepin School District from 2005-2019. He was a staff member at the Anoka Middle School for the Arts (formally Fred Moore Middle School) during the time of the assaults, which surfaced last year. 

Fietek was arrested in Malden last summer and extradited to Anoka County, where he's been on GPS surveillance. 

The Star Tribune said he was working at Emerson College in Boston and has since lost his job. 

The charges

According to the criminal complaint, on June 25 the sheriff's office received a report of a sexual assault that happened nine years earlier involving Fietek and a victim who was 14 years old when he was assaulted several times between 2009-2010.

The two had met through the Youth Art's Initiative (YAI), a children's theater group Fietek started, the complaint said.

A second victim, who was assaulted in 2019 when he was 15, had met Fietek after auditioning for a play, the complaint said. Fietek moved to Massachusetts after last summer and he requested the victim send him nude photos of himself – the victim sent 20-30 of them before he stopped because he felt it was weird. Fietek had also bought the victim a plane ticket to visit him in Massachusetts for a week, his mother told investigators.

A third victim had Fietek as his theater teacher while he was in middle school. In late 2010, they began spending time together because Fietek was helping him write an anti-bullying speech to the school board. The assaults began in late summer 2011 when the victim was 15 years old and continued until he was 18 years old and moved away, the complaint said. 

"At the time . . . I was special to him you know, and so I wanted to do whatever it was that I could to make him happy," the victim told investigators, according to the complaint.

The fourth victim went to the middle school where Fietek taught but did not have him as a teacher, the complaint said. The victim, when he was 14, used the Grindr dating app and Fietek reached out to him, but the victim didn't respond. Then, when he was 15 or 16 and in high school, he went back on the app and Fietek contacted him. Eventually, they met up at the middle school, where Fietek assaulted him. 

They stayed in touch when the victim was 17 and 18 years old, during which time Fietek continued to assault him, charges say.

The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office is encouraging all victims of sexual assault to report the assault to law enforcement. In Anoka County, victims can call 763-427-1212.

Fietek will have to register as a predatory offender.


 Aug. 19, 2021

Minnesota teacher charged with sexually assaulting former student

PROCTOR, Minn. — A middle school teacher and longtime basketball coach sexually assaulted a former student "multiple times a week over the course of a year" and threatened to kill himself if she told anyone, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday, Aug. 19.

Todd Robert Clark, 51, was arraigned in State District Court on three felony charges stemming from the alleged abuse of the victim, who was 15 and 16 years old at the time.

Clark has taught at area schools for more than two decades, most recently as an eighth grade algebra teacher at A.I. Jedlicka Middle School in Proctor, Minnesota, and previously as a middle school math teacher at Marshall School in Duluth.

The 1988 Proctor High School graduate also spent 20 years coaching high school varsity boys basketball. He served 13 years as head coach at Marshall before resigning in December 2011, and then for another seven seasons at the helm in Proctor, where he stepped down in April 2019.

Duluth police first began investigating on Aug. 10, when another middle school teacher reported that the now-adult victim had told her of a "sexual relationship" with Clark several years earlier, according to the complaint.

The victim then told investigators that when she was 15, Clark began "touching and kissing her." She said that had occurred about twice a week over the course of a year, the complaint states.

The victim said she felt "OK with the touching at the time," but was having difficulty keeping their relationship a secret and wanted to report the incidents. But Clark had told her to "keep things the same," and said he would not be able to live with himself and asked for time to say goodbye to his family, according to the complaint.

Police soon thereafter were called to Clark's residence, where medical staff treated him and transported him to a hospital after an apparent diabetic emergency that authorities suspected may have been a suicide attempt.

In a follow-up interview, the victim told investigators that she and Clark began emailing frequently in the summer after she was in his eighth-grade class. According to the complaint, she said Clark later began giving her rides to friends' houses after school and gave her his phone number so they didn't have to communicate via school email.

In the summer after her ninth-grade year, Clark began meeting the victim at a local restaurant and giving her more frequent rides, the complaint states. On one occasion, he allegedly gave the victim a hug and then kissed her, and later on began rubbing his hand on her thigh. Over time, the touching escalated, according to the charges.

"I really didn't know how to feel," the victim reportedly told investigators. "I'd never done anything like that ever before and remember asking myself why it wasn't a good feeling, and why my body wasn't doing what it was supposed to do by making me feel good."

Authorities said the abuse continued on later car rides, with Clark having a process of pulling into a drive-thru car wash and putting the sun visor down to hide his face while he sexually assaulted the victim.

The victim reportedly told police she was becoming increasingly concerned, noting they may have been seen on camera together at one point outside another teacher's house and that there were later some incidents inside Clark's classroom.

Clark, according to the victim, eventually told her that the sexual activity needed to stop because he felt guilty when he went home to his family at night.

Clark was arrested at his home on Tuesday, Aug. 17, just a week after the conduct was first reported to authorities. A forensic review of evidence, including the victim's cellphone, was said to be ongoing as of the filing of the complaint.

However, police said a preliminary review showed that Clark sent numerous messages indicating he would end his life if she reported their relationship. On one occasion he allegedly wrote: "Even an accusation of improper behavior ruins a teacher's career. My future is in your hands."

Clark is charged with first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct and first-degree witness tampering.

If convicted of the top charge, a first-time offender faces a presumptive prison term of about 12 years under state sentencing guidelines. That was the sentence handed down to another area teacher, Karla Winterfeld, under similar circumstances in 2018.

Judge Shawn Pearson set Clark's bail at $100,000 with conditions or $150,000 without.


May 5, 2021

Feds charge Minnesota substitute teacher in sextortion case case/6097842/ 

A 25-year-old substitute teacher from Carver has been charged in connection to a sextortion case involving minors, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. 

Mitchell James Ottinger has been charged with two counts of production and attempted production of child pornography and two counts of making extortionate threats. 

According to court documents, Ottinger created fake internet accounts to "encourage and direct" minors and adults to make sexually explicit images and videos. 

If a victim blocked or ignored Ottinger, he would contact the victim and threaten to publish the sexually explicit images. 

If found guilty, he could face up to 15 years in prison. 

The U.S. Attorney's Office said Ottinger serves as a substitute teacher, however, they did not make it clear what districts he serves in. 

 April 19, 2021

UPDATE: Barnesville Teacher and Coach on leave following arrest

BARNESVILLE, Minn. (Valley News Live) - A teacher and coach in the Barnesville School District is on leave from his teaching and coaching duties after being arrested over the weekend.

Superintendent Dr. Jon Ellerbusch tells Valley News Live the following message was sent to families on Tuesday morning:

Court documents say 26-year-old Stuart Brandt was arrested on Saturday, April 17, and charged with one count of Domestic Assault-Commits Act to Cause Fear of Immediate Bodily Harm or Death and one count of Domestic Assault-Intentionally Inflicts/Attempts to Inflict Bodily Harm on Another; both of which are Misdemeanors.

A criminal complaint file says Brandt was in his home on Saturday morning and got into an argument with his roommate about the way she was cleaning the refrigerator. Court documents say Brandt eventually shoved his roommate and grabbed her arms. When she tried to pull away, he grabbed her neck and continued yelling. The documents also say that when the roommate left the room, Brandt grabbed her arm with one hand and punched her left side with the other.

Barnesville Police state in the documentation that Brandt’s roommate had a bruise on her arm. The roommate also told police that Brandt had threatened to drown her, grabbed her, and yelled at her in the past.

On Monday, Superintendent Ellerbusch told Valley News Live Mr. Brandt is a second year teacher with the District and confirmed his employment as the Elementary Physical Education Teacher, as well at the Head Wrestling Coach and Jr. High Baseball Coach. Dr. Ellerbusch also says, although the School District has not yet had a chance to visit with Mr. Brand about his arrest and the charges filed against him, they don’t believe the situation involved another school employee or a student at Barnesville Public School.



March 17, 2021

Minnesota teacher resigns after 10+ former students accuse him of sexual harassment, grooming

NEWFOLDEN, M.N. (Valley News Live) - A Minnesota teacher has resigned after more than 10 former students came forward detailing incidents of sexual harassment, grooming and cyber stalking.

The Marshall County Central School District voted Tuesday night to accept high school teacher Eric Mimnaugh’s resignation. School officials say evidence shows Mimnaugh didn’t treat current students inappropriately.

24 pages of statements and screenshots were compiled and given to the school district, as well as Valley News Live, demanding immediate action. The former students state that the 16 victims who have chosen to come forward are only scratching the surface of the damage Mimnaugh caused both in and outside of the classroom.

The victims did not identify themselves in the letters, and those we spoke with this week want to remain anonymous in fear of retaliation.

One accuser stated after she graduated Mimnaugh ‘tried to keep kissing me and I kept having to dodge him or push him away.’ She later wrote in her statement that she’s gone through an immense amount of therapy to ‘help heal and see the manipulation and abuse I was subject to.’

Another alleged victim wrote that Mimnaugh often brought up getting married and a future together, and stated he loved her unprovoked.

The file also includes two screenshots between a former student and Mimnaugh. Screenshots show Mimnaugh asked the female what she was wearing under her scrubs, and when she replied, ‘No,’ Mimnaugh asked, ‘Nothing?’

Screenshots indicate Mimnaugh also told the female the conversation could go further if she wanted it to.

The female states Mimnaugh had since deleted his Facebook account, so his name no longer appears on the chats.

While some accusers say the abuse of power and misconduct started while they were in school, most say Mimnaugh reached out on various social media platforms after graduation.

“I don’t feel ok knowing that he is still teaching and there could be others in his class now receiving similar “special” attention so that they will remember him and he can exploit them. He’s capable of manipulating people in any number of ways. Even if some haven’t reported him to the police it doesn’t mean they couldn’t have. I think many could have reported him but didn’t probably due to his “favorite teacher” status. If in fact he hasn’t broken a law, he has skirted very closely around them. His behavior is flat out creepy, wrong, predatory and most importantly it’s subjecting students at school to harm,” one alleged victim wrote.

Valley News Live was not able to obtain Mr. Mimnaugh’s personnel file this week, but Superintendent Jeffrey Lund stated there has been not been a final disposition of disciplinary action involving Mimnaugh during his employment with district.

Lund also says the district notified the Marshall County Sherriff’s Office, however, as of Wednesday evening there have not been formal charges filed against Mimnaugh.

Mimnaugh was in his fourth year in the Marshall County Central School District, but has been a teacher for more than 15 years. Some of the victims claim their abuse with Mimnaugh began at the Greenbush Middle River School District. In a statement to Valley News Live, Interim Superintendent Larry Guggisberg said:

“The Greenbush Middle River School District has not received any formal complaints regarding Mr. Mimnaugh, either during or after his time as a school district employee.  We are aware of the allegations against him based on what has been reported in the media.  As for your request for files, there are no “disciplinary files” involving Mr. Mimnaugh.  He was not subject to any disciplinary action during his time as an employee with the Greenbush Middle River School District.”

We reached out to Mimnaugh for a comment, however we did not hear back.



December 20, 2018

Prison for Duluth teacher in sex abuse case

For more than two months, Judge David Johnson said he had been losing sleep over the case that returned to his courtroom Thursday.

Calling it the toughest decision he’s faced in 12 years on the bench, Johnson struggled with the fate of Karla Jean Winterfeld, the Duluth middle school teacher who admitted to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old former student.

After an emotional two-hour hearing, however, the judge was unequivocal in his delivering his sentence. Winterfeld, he said, would get the 12-year prison term requested by a prosecutor.

“He had hope for a better life and you, through your actions, destroyed that,” Johnson told the defendant. “You destroyed his life. I can’t get past that. I simply can’t.”

Winterfeld, standing to receive the sentence, dropped her head as the judge denied her request for leniency. Crying, she held a tissue as she placed her hands behind her back to be handcuffed by security personnel as a packed gallery looked on.

Winterfeld, 34, pleaded guilty in October to a felony count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, admitting that she had engaged in multiple sexual acts with the victim over the course of several weeks in May.

The fact that the judge had such wide discretion - ranging from probation to the guideline 12-year prison term - was a result of Winterfeld admitting guilt without the benefit of any plea agreement.

The courtroom, which holds about 50 spectators, did not come close to accommodating the number of people who gathered in the hallway beforehand hoping to get a seat. Many were left outside to await the news.

The victim has been left to deal with lifelong trauma stemming from Winterfeld’s actions, his uncle told the judge.

“I can see it in his face, his eyes, his actions,” said the uncle, who serves as his guardian. “He’s starting to bottle up. He won’t talk to me. All the effects are starting to show.”

He added: “It hurts. It shouldn’t have happened. You should’ve known better. You say this is far from over. Well, I’ve got to deal with this for the next few decades.”

Winterfeld, who formally resigned in August after 11 years with the Duluth school district, read a brief statement, calling her behavior “inexcusable” and echoing comments from a written letter she previously submitted to the court.

“I will never forgive myself for what happened,” she said. “I will live with this guilt for the rest of my life.”

Defense attorney Jacob Brodin called two witnesses to testify in support of his motion for probation.

Jessica Metzger, a therapist at the Duluth Institute, a mental health clinic, said Winterfeld voluntarily entered treatment and has been “fully accountable” for her crimes.

“She has been very motivated, very engaged, very interested in learning why she did what she did,” Metzger testified, adding: “I don’t believe she poses any risk to public safety.”

Gerald Henkel-Johnson, a psychologist who completed a psychosexual evaluation, said it was clear Winterfeld had experienced a “history of significant trauma” as a child. He opined that she has been honest and accountable for her actions and said female sex offenders, while rare, have a very low rate of recidivism.

Peter Rainville, another defense attorney, said the testimony demonstrates that Winterfeld has been “working extremely hard to fix the broken part of her that caused this offense.”

“She is just plain amenable to probation,” Rainville argued.

St. Louis County prosecutor Jon Holets, on the other hand, said the substantial prison sentence would serve as a guard against bias in the court system. Noting most defendants do not have the means or connections to hire expert witnesses and solicit dozens of letters of support, Holets said the court should be blind to Winterfeld’s race, sex and socioeconomic status.

“There is nothing particularly different or special about this case except that the courtroom happens to be filled,” the prosecutor said. “This is exactly what sexual assault and sexual abuse look like.”

Holets said Winterfeld engaged in grooming behavior before the first incident. He added that police recovered photographs and recordings depicting the acts, as well as evidence that Winterfeld had researched consent laws.

“She is not the victim,” Holets said.

Johnson adjourned court for a half-hour, taking a final opportunity to review all the material before rendering his decision.

When he came back, the judge was swift and blunt.

“We’re here for sentencing related to your rape of an underage child,” he said. “That’s the charge, and that’s what you’ve pled guilty to.”

The judge said that while it was clear Winterfeld needs treatment, he couldn’t look past the vulnerability of the victim. “I cannot find substantial and compelling reasons to depart,” he said.

Winterfeld must serve at least two-thirds of term, or eight years, before she is eligible for release from prison. She also will need to register as a predatory offender and be subject to 10 years of conditional release.


 November 12, 2020

Ex-Minnesota middle school teacher sentenced for sexually assaulting teen

A former Minnesota middle school teacher was reportedly sentenced on Monday for sexually assaulting a one-time student that she mentored at home.

Madeleine Schmaltz, 30, who taught at Hermantown Middle School, was given three years of supervised probation for the sexual relationship with the teen in the spring of 2019, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

At her sentencing, Schmaltz apologized to the victim and his family and blamed the sex acts on her “clouded judgement.”

“During the spring of 2019, I was going through personal traumatic experiences that did cloud my judgment,” Schmaltz said, according to the report.

“Since then, I’ve been working through those experiences, along with just trying to better myself, and I will continue to do so,” the former teacher said.

In September, Schmaltz pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The victim’s mother discovered the relationship in June 2019 after finding messages between Schmaltz and the teen on his phone, according to a criminal complaint obtained by the paper.

Schmaltz and teen both admitted to the relationship to police, the complaint said.

In addition to probation, Schmaltz was ordered to register as a predatory offender, the report said.


White Minnesota elementary school teacher 'physically assaulted three black children in her class and segregated them from their peers'

A Minnesota elementary school teacher has been accused of physically assaulting three black students in her second-grade class and segregating them from their white peers.  

The alleged abuse by Geraldine Cook, a now-former teacher at Harambee Elementary School in Roseville, was outlined in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by parent Kristen Lindsey in the US District Court in St Paul last week. 

Lindsey claims that Cook, who is white, choked her seven-year-old son, who is black and has learning disabilities, and left him so traumatized that he had to transfer out of the school district. 

The mother further alleged that the principal of Harambee tried to hide the assault from her for weeks until the boy told her himself. 

Her lawsuit asserts that Cook also assaulted two other black students in the 2019-20 school year - and that at one point the teacher forced her son to put his hands behind his back as if he was under arrest.

State records reviewed by the Star Tribune showed that Cook's teaching license, which she first obtained in 1988, is no longer valid.  

A spokesman for Roseville public schools, Joshua Collins, told the outlet that Cook joined the district - which is also named as a defendant in Lindsey's suit - in August 2013 and resigned in December 2019. 

Collins declined to comment on the lawsuit allegations against Cook but said: 'The safety and well-being of our students is our most important obligation, and we take any complaint of harm against a student seriously.'

Lindsey's lawsuit outlines how she came to know Cook while working as a volunteer at Harambee, describing the teacher as 'overwhelmed and erratic', particularly in interactions with black students in her class.  

The mother alleged that Cook once told her she was struggling with 'that particular group of students' as she gestured toward six or so black children who had been forced to sit away from their white classmates. 

Lindsey voiced concerns about Cook to Principal Delon Smith after that encounter, but he never did anything in response, the suit claims. 

About a month into the 2019 fall semester, Cook allegedly left Lindsey a voicemail in which she complained that her son was speaking to adults in an inappropriate manner, and asked if the boy was allowed to misbehave at home. 

When Lindsey met with Cook to address her concerns about the boy, Cook repeated her gripes about black students misbehaving, the suit claims.  

Soon after that, Lindsey claimed her son came home from school with a tear in his shirt. The boy told her that his teacher had ripped it while pulling on his arm. 

Days later another black child accused Cook of assaulting him, the suit claims. It quotes that child as saying that his teacher 'doesn't like black kids' and that Cook had pushed, shoved and 'smooshed the faces' of black students in her class.  

Lindsey's lawsuit alleges that at least six of her son's classmates told the Principal Smith that they saw Cook choke him. 

When the boy brought the claim himself, Smith allegedly told him not to tell his mother. 

Cook allegedly retaliated against the boy and his classmates for going to the principal, at one point marching him to the principal office 'while forcing him to hold his hands behind his back like a criminal defendant', the suit states.  

Lindsey said she started noticing changes in her son's behavior around the time of the alleged assault and had him undergo a psychological evaluation which revealed signs of recent trauma.  

The mother said her son finally told her about the choking incident after informing her that Cook was no longer his teacher.  

The boy's uncle, Ronald Lindsey, brought up the alleged abuse at a Roseville school board meeting about a month before the teacher's resignation. 

Video showed the uncle demanding an investigation into the 'assault and/or assaults being inflicted by staff upon minor children and the attempted coverup of these documented facts, not allegations'.

Rachel Lindsey's lawsuit seeks monetary compensation for the violation of her and her son's civil rights. 

It alleges that the school district prevented her from providing her son with the care he needed by failing to tell her about the alleged choking incident and other alleged abuses in Cook's classroom.  

One of Lindsey's attorneys, Joshua Newville, told the Star Tribune that 'there has been some pre-litigation discussions with the School District, but not anything I'm prepared to talk about'.

The outlet said Cook did not return its requests for comment on Monday. 


June 26, 2020 

Hibbing teacher charged with allegedly sending nude images to kids 

Duluth TV station WDIO reports that according to Hibbing police said that charges have been filed in connection with an investigation into a school teacher.

Jordan Michael Kochevar, 27, now faces four felonies. According to the Hibbing school website, he is a 6th-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary.

The criminal complaint said the police department got a voicemail on Saturday regarding a video image sent to a 10-year-old child through a group Snapchat.

According to authorities, the image was a man showing frontal nudity from the chin down. The parent thought the person who sent it was Kochevar.

Police said another video showed a bare-chested man lowering the camera down to his private parts, and then exposing himself.

Investigators believe the images were sent to four teens.

When he was interviewed by police, Kochevar allegedly told them he was intoxicated when he sent inappropriate messages to four different juveniles.

The Hibbing School District said on Thursday that they are also conducting an investigation. Kochevar has been placed on administrative leave, per the superintendent.


June 11,2020

Special education teacher charged with sexual assault

He is accused of raping a woman he met online.

A 50-year-old Bloomington man is accused of sexually assaulting a woman he met on a dating website. 

Michael Lovestrand is charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection to an April 2018 incident in which the victim said they were having consensual sex but did not stop when she asked him to several times, the criminal complaint states. 

Lovestrand was charged last week and was arrested on Saturday. He was released from jail on Monday and made his initial court appearance Tuesday, according to Hennepin County jail recordsCourt records show Lovestrand's next court date is July 9.

The charges

According to the criminal complaint, the victim came forward to police in November 2019 after trying to forget about what had happened.

The victim said she met the man on a dating site and they talked for several weeks before she went to his apartment in Bloomington in April 2018. They had dinner and then went into the bedroom.

Afterward, the victim told her mom and a friend about what had happened and also went to the hospital, the complaint states. Both her mom and her friend said the victim was having a hard time dealing with the assault.

In January of this year, she identified Lovestrand in a photo lineup as the man who assaulted her. 

A former special education teacher

Lovestrand previously worked as a special education teacher in the Mounds View and St. Paul public school districts, the Star Tribune reports

Mounds View School District spokesperson confirmed to BMTN that Lovestrand worked for the district in the special ed program called NETS at a site in Shoreview. He was hired in 2004 and resigned from the district in 2016.  

He then worked for St. Paul Public Schools until 2017, the Star Tribune said. It is unclear what Lovestrand is currently doing for employment, but his teaching license with the state of Minnesota is currently active, according to a search on the state Department of Education's website. It expires on June 30 of this year.



Albany teacher and coach charged for alleged sex assault on student

The 31-year-old teacher also coached multiple sports at Albany Schools.

A teacher and coach in central Minnesota has been charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct for alleged sexual assaults of a student for more than a year. 

Daniel S. Fragodt, of Melrose, was charged Monday in Stearns County District Court. The 31-year-old taught math at Albany Schools and also coached girls' basketball, track and field, and cross country. 

According to a criminal complaint, police were informed of Fragodt's relationship with a teenage student on March 30 by a 14-year-old student who accused Fragodt of touching her leg through a hole in her jeans just prior to "quarantine break." Another 14-year-old student corrabborated the classmate's claim. 

On April 9, investigators obtained phone records from Fragodt and found that he and a 18-year-old student had extensive contact going back to September 2017. 

Police learned that the victim was 17 when Fragodt began a physical relationship with her, including sexual intercourse. The complaint says the sexual contact took place at the school, a park-and-ride in St. Joseph, Minnesota, and "other places in Albany." 

Fragodt is charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct of a victim who is at least 16 but less than 18 years old and at least 48 months younger than him. If convicted, he could be sentenced up to 15 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $30,000 fine. 

Fragodt graduated from Benson High School in 2007 where he was a state champion hurdler in track as well as a standout athlete in tennis, basketball and football. He played tennis and basketball in college at the University of Minnesota-Morris. 

According to LinkedIn, he started teaching mathematics at Albany Schools in 2014.




Charges: Woman sexually assaulted former Hermantown student

The assaults happened in the spring of 2019.

A 29-year-old northern Minnesota woman has been charged with sexually assaulting one of her former students in the spring of 2019. 

Madeleine Schmaltz, 29, of Saginaw, was charged via summons Wednesday in St. Louis County with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony. 

According to the criminal complaint, on June 4, 2019, a mandated reporter contacted Hermantown police to report she was concerned there was a sexual relationship going on between a 16-year-old student and Schmaltz. 

Police met with the 16-year-old victim's parents and learned that on June 3, 2019, the victim's mom overheard a phone conversation between the victim and an older female. The mom was concerned because they were talking about topics that were sexual in nature. 

The mom reviewed the phone records and learned the victim was speaking with Schmaltz, who was the victim's teacher two years before. 

The victim's parents reported to police that Schmaltz gave the victim several gifts and that the victim would go to Schmaltz's house frequently for help with school work and mentoring.

On June 6, 2019, police interviewed the victim, who said they were involved in a sexual relationship with Schmaltz. The victim said they would go to Schmaltz's house in Saginaw and they'd engaged in "sexual touching of the victim's intimate parts," which happened more than two times in the past few weeks, the complaint said. 

Officials interviewed Schmaltz on June 6, 2019, who said during the winter of 2018-19, she and the victim developed a mentor relationship and on several occasions, the victim came to her house for help with homework and mentoring. 

Schmaltz said in the past few weeks, their relationship became sexual on more than two occasions in the past few weeks. 

According to Hermantown school board meeting minutes from June 10, 2019, Schmaltz resigned as a science teacher and junior high volleyball coach.


 May 22, 2019 

Former Columbia Academy Teacher And Coach Pleads Guilty To Criminal Sexual Conduct

 MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Former Columbia Heights teacher Daniel Laskowski pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said. In January, the 32-year-old faced charges after allegedly sexually assaulting a teenage boy while video recording the assaults. The victim was between 13 and 15 years old, the office said.

Laskowski agreed to an upward sentence of 52 months, to be stayed for seven years during his probation. The office says he must register as a sex offender and complete sex offender treatment.

The former teacher from Maple Grove resigned from the Columbia Academy in 2017.

The office says during his guilty plea, Laskowski admitted to using his status as a former social studies teacher and football coach and supplying the child with alcohol. The office says he admitted to lying to the victim about making money off the videos.

The judge said because he was a former teacher and coach, two counts of criminal sexual conduct– through a position of authority for lack of probable cause– did not apply and were dismissed.

Laskowski’s sentencing is set for June 21.



 March 6, 2018

Minnesota Teacher Accused of Sex With 16-Year-Old Student Pleads Guilty

A Minnesota teacher pled guilty to a charge in connection with having sex with a 16-year-old boy and sending nude photos via Snapchat to another 15-year-old boy in a plea deal Monday.

Erik M. Akervik, 30, pled guilty to a third-degree criminal sexual conduct charge after having sex with the 16-year-old student and sending nudes to the other student. Akervik had an additional third-degree criminal sexual conduct charge dropped as part of the plea deal, according to the Minnesota Star Tribune. His sentencing was set for June.

Akervik still faces a felony charge of electronic solicitation of a child for messaging a 15-year-old boy via Instagram in April of last year while he was out on bail, according to police. That trial was set for July. Akervik reportedly met the boy while he was a choral director at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. Akervik taught music there for six years. Part of his bail was to not contact anyone under the age of 18.

The sexual encounter happened in 2016, according to the criminal complaint. Akervik allegedly invited the student to his apartment and then proceeded to have sex with him.

Akervik was arrested in April of last year, he was a music teacher at Burnsville High School, less than 20 miles outside of downtown Minneapolis.

Reports of misconduct were made to a school official last year when a student approached a school resource officer about sexually inappropriate communications from Akervik, according to St. Paul Pioneer Press. The school then contacted police.

Akervik allegedly sent the student a full body nude photo on Snapchat and a message that said "I'd like to get to know you closer and better," according to the criminal complaint. Police recovered the photo from the student's phone.

Akervik started teaching in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District in 2013 and before that, he worked in Minneapolis Public Schools.




October 31, 2017


Kenneth Lee Sonnenfeld was acquitted of the second-degree criminal sexual conduct charge. Anoka-Hennepin Schools says he remains on administrative leave.

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 52-year-old Oak Grove man is accused of sexually assaulting a juvenile female student at a Blaine elementary school, according to the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office says it received the report Tuesday that a juvenile female student accused a fourth-grade teacher at Johnsville Elementary School.

After an investigation, deputies took the suspect, identified as Kenneth Lee Sonnenfeld, into custody. He faces a charge of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Anoka County Sheriff’s Office Commander Paul Sommer said the girl, now 10, told investigators the alleged abuse took place between December 2014 and the Spring of 2015. She said Sonnenfeld would touch her inappropriately when she would go up to his desk to ask for help with math and science problems.

Court documents say the girl “decided to talk about what happened so that her chest and stomach wouldn’t hurt anymore.”

Sonnenfeld has been with the Anoka-Hennepin School District for 24 years. District officials told WCCO he had been placed on administrative leave. A statement Wednesday read:

“Kenneth Sonnenfeld, a fourth grade teacher at Johnsville Elementary in Blaine, is on administrative leave as the result of a complaint made to the district. The district immediately reported this complaint to law enforcement and appropriate agencies, and they’re currently investigating it. The district will also conduct an investigation and action may be taken as a result of those findings.”

Details of the complaint cannot be shared because of data privacy laws.

No one answered the door at Sonnenfeld’s home in Oak Grove. Neighbors declined to go on camera, but said they found the allegations absurd and said he was a good person.



 July 26, 2017

Minnesota choir teacher charged with having sex with 17-year-old student 

 NEW HOPE, Minn.-A former Minnesota teacher has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a student and sending partially nude photographs to his cell phone.Christine Lee Funk, 31, of New Hope, was charged Wednesday with three felony count...

NEW HOPE, Minn.-A former Minnesota teacher has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a student and sending partially nude photographs to his cell phone.

Christine Lee Funk, 31, of New Hope, was charged Wednesday with three felony counts of criminal sexual conduct, according to James Backstrom, Dakota County attorney.

Funk was a choir teacher at Henry Sibley High School in the West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan district school until being put on leave after her initial arrest in late February.

According to the criminal complaint:

The school police officer learned of inappropriate text messages between Funk and a 17-year-old male student. The messages were reviewed by police and indicated the student was having sex with Funk, who was his music teacher.

Several partially nude photos of Funk were also found on the student's phone.

Funk initially told police any messages about sex were a "fantasy" and denied sending nude photos. She eventually admitted to sending the messages after being shown the photographs on the student's phone.

The student also initially denied having sex with Funk. After more messages were recovered from his phone, he admitted they had sexual relations on three occasions: at her Hennepin County home, at the school and in a car outside the student's Dakota County home.

"Crimes of this nature represent a significant abuse of authority and violate the trust students, parents, and the community have the right to expect of teachers," Backstrom said in a statement. He added that Dakota County has jurisdiction to prosecute the case because the majority of the incidents occurred there and the victim lives there.

Funk was initially arrested in late February on suspicion of possessing child pornography. She was released from the Dakota County Jail without having to post bail while the investigation was underway.

Funk was put on leave from her job after district leaders received a complaint about her. At the time, school officials sent a message to parents that said there was no "ongoing risk to any student or employee."

A district spokeswoman said Funk resigned from her job at Henry Sibley in March.

Funk was arrested by Mendota Heights police Tuesday night and remains in the Dakota County jail. At her initial court appearance Wednesday, a judge set bail at $75,000.

Funk's attorney did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment. If convicted, Funk could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine for each of the three charges.


May 1, 2017

AP uncovers 17,000 reports of sexual assaults at schools across US 


BRUNSWICK, Maine (AP) — Chaz Wing was 12 when they came after him. The classmates who tormented him were children, too, entering the age of pimples and cracking voices.

Eventually, he swore under oath, the boys raped him and left him bleeding, the culmination of a year of harassment. Though Chaz repeatedly told teachers and administrators about insults and physical attacks, he didn’t report being sexually assaulted until a year later, launching a long legal fight over whether his school had done enough to protect him.

Chaz’s saga is more than a tale of escalating bullying. Across the U.S., thousands of students have been sexually assaulted, by other students, in high schools, junior highs and even elementary schools — a hidden horror educators have long been warned not to ignore.

Relying on state education records, supplemented by federal crime data, a yearlong investigation by The Associated Press uncovered roughly 17,000 official reports of sex assaults by students over a four-year period, from fall 2011 to spring 2015.

Though that figure represents the most complete tally yet of sexual assaults among the nation’s 50 million K-12 students, it does not fully capture the problem because such attacks are greatly under-reported, some states don’t track them and those that do vary widely in how they classify and catalog sexual violence. A number of academic estimates range sharply higher.

“Schools are required to keep students safe,” said Charol Shakeshaft, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor who specializes in school sexual misconduct. “It is part of their mission. It is part of their legal responsibility. It isn’t happening. Why don’t we know more about it, and why isn’t it being stopped?”

Elementary and secondary schools have no national requirement to track or disclose sexual violence, and they feel tremendous pressure to hide it. Even under varying state laws, acknowledging an incident can trigger liabilities and requirements to act.

And when schools don’t act — or when their efforts to root out abuse are ineffectual — justice is not served.

This, Chaz Wing said in his lawsuit against the Brunswick school district, is precisely what happened to him.

Though both sides contest whether any rapes occurred, the AP found that school administrators allowed Chaz’s bullying to escalate and then failed to adequately investigate his allegations of sexual abuse.

From almost his first day at Brunswick Junior High, Chaz said kids harassed him, taunted him about his weight and subjected him to ordeals like a “gay test.” Complaining to teachers and administrators didn’t help, he said. He slid into depression and refused to go to school.

Then one day in 2012, his mom came home and found him curled up in her bed, rocking back and forth. She begged him to tell her what was wrong. Slowly, his words came out.

“They hurt me,” he cried.

He said he’d been raped. Three times.

Chaz told police, child-abuse investigators and lawyers under oath that he kept quiet about the assaults for nearly a year because of threats against him and his family if he talked.

Sexual abuse allegations can be difficult to investigate. Because many accusers initially keep quiet, physical evidence can be long gone once investigators step in. Often, there are no eyewitnesses, leaving only the conflicting accounts of the accuser and the accused.

What Chaz told authorities and investigators — multiple times over four years — remained consistent, an AP review of government and court records shows. And a child-abuse examiner wrote of “strong evidence” that Chaz was sexually assaulted.

The school district staunchly defends how it handled its investigation. The junior high principal said his inquiry determined that the sexual assaults were “very unlikely.” One of the accused boys, he noted, had never even heard of anal rape.

“There is — as there should be — always an inclination to believe allegations of sexual assault at the outset,” district lawyer Melissa Hewey said in an email to AP. “But sometimes, the evidence compels the conclusion that those allegations are false.”

“The little boys who were accused,” she said, “are the real victims in this case and they deserve to be protected.”

A hidden problem

Children remain most vulnerable to sexual assaults by other children in the privacy of a home, according to AP’s review of the federal crime data, which allowed for a more detailed analysis than state education records. But schools — where many more adults are keeping watch, and where parents trust their kids will be kept safe — are the No. 2 site where juveniles are sexually violated by their peers.

Ranging from rape and sodomy to forced oral sex and fondling, the sexual violence that AP tracked often was mischaracterized as bullying, hazing or consensual behavior. It occurred anywhere students were left unsupervised: buses and bathrooms, hallways and locker rooms. No type of school was immune, whether it be in an upper-class suburb, an inner-city neighborhood or a blue-collar farm town.

And all types of children were vulnerable, not just kids like Chaz who have trouble fitting in.

Unwanted fondling was the most common form of assault, but about one in five of the students assaulted were raped, sodomized or penetrated with an object, according to AP’s analysis of the federal incident-based crime data.

About 5 percent of the sexual violence involved 5- and 6-year-olds. But the numbers increased significantly between ages 10 and 11 — about the time many students start their middle-school years — and continued rising up until age 14. They then dropped as students progressed through their high school years.

The AP counted only the most severe forms of sexual assault, excluding categories that were more broadly termed, such as sexual harassment, or behavior like kissing on the playground.

Contrary to public perception, data showed that student sexual assaults by peers were far more common than those by teachers. For every adult-on-child sexual attack reported on school property, there were seven assaults by students, AP’s analysis of the federal crime data showed.

Schools frequently were unwilling or ill-equipped to address the problem, AP found, despite having long been warned by the U.S. Supreme Court that they could be liable for monetary damages. Some administrators and educators even engaged in cover-ups to hide evidence of a possible crime and protect their schools’ image.

“No principal wants their school to be the rape school, to be listed in the newspaper as being investigated. Schools try to bury it. It’s the courageous principal that does the right thing,” said Dr. Bill Howe, a former K-12 teacher who spent 17 years overseeing Connecticut’s state compliance with Title IX, the federal law used to help protect victims of sexual assault in schools.

Laws and legal hurdles also favor silence. Schools have broadly interpreted rules protecting student and juvenile privacy to withhold basic information about sexual attacks from their communities. Victims and their families face high legal thresholds to successfully sue school districts for not maintaining safe learning environments.

“Everyone feels like we don’t have a problem, and the reason they feel that way is they have their heads in the sand,” said Oregon psychologist Wilson Kenney, who has helped develop student intervention programs.

Student-on-student sexual assaults live in the shadows compared to the attention paid to gun violence in schools, most notably the Newtown shooting, Kenney noted. “There’s no Sandy Hook for sexual misconduct. But I think the potential harm is great,” he said.

Chaz’s legal fight with Brunswick Junior High offers a rare insight into a school investigation of student sexual assault allegations.

The AP reviewed about 1,500 pages of sworn testimony, emails, court documents and investigative reports, as well as videotaped depositions of 15 school administrators, teachers and police, and interviews with a dozen people tied to the case.

School and district officials declined AP’s interview requests. So did parents of some of the students accused in the attacks, except to say their sons were innocent.

The AP does not usually name alleged victims of sexual assault, but Chaz and his parents decided to speak publicly in hopes of helping others.

“I don’t want this to happen to other kids,” said his mom, Amy Wing.

Warning signs

From Chaz’s first days at Brunswick Junior High in September 2010, teachers say it was clear he was the type of kid bullies would target.

Overweight with a brown mullet, he had unpopular opinions and wasn’t shy about expressing them. He despised sports, video games and pop music. When other boys showed up for a class project in soccer jerseys, he displayed his love of gardening by wearing a hat and gloves, carrying a trowel and handing out flower-shaped sugar cookies.

Early on, Chaz testified in his lawsuit, several boys cornered him at his locker, mocking him and calling him fat. What bothered him most, though, was the “gay test.” Feeling a light touch on his shoulder in social studies class, he brushed off a boy’s hand. Seconds later, it was back. It was a test, he was told: If he didn’t notice for 10 seconds, he must like it and be gay. Before long, half the boys in the class were doing it.

“Why are they so mean?” Chaz often asked Amy when he came home. “Why do they hate me?”

Initially, Amy urged him to ignore the bullying and try to get along with others. But after the “gay test” began, she also encouraged him to report incidents as they happened and so he did, dozens and dozens of times to teachers, his guidance counselor and the principal. He complained so often that he came to be seen as an overly sensitive nuisance.

One teacher asked Chaz if he was gay, he testified. “I told her ‘no’ and she said then don’t worry about it.”

Finally, Chaz made an appointment to see the principal, Walter Wallace, who had formed an anti-bullying committee shortly after joining the school. In early 2010, Wallace testified, Brunswick students had participated in a survey in which 1 in 6 pupils reported being regularly physically victimized. Wallace implemented a system for documenting student abuse, but it recorded only complaints that were confirmed and then only in the files of the accused, not the victim.

In their meeting in late 2010, Chaz said he detailed the harassment — but the problems continued. Wallace later testified he spoke to the boys Chaz identified and “never heard about it again.” But Chaz said another wave started with a different set of boys.

By January 2011, losing patience, Amy first met with Wallace. “It needs to stop,” she told him. Two weeks later, as the bullying continued, she was back in his office.

Wallace later told her he’d talked to the four main instigators and at least one acknowledged taking part in the “gay test.”

Chaz entered Brunswick Junior High with a “gifted and talented” designation, but by the time he started seventh grade in fall 2011, his academic marks had dropped. His harassment complaints were consuming so much of teachers’ time that they asked Wallace and his vice principal to take over.

“It wasn’t happening when we were watching and we were trying to keep a close eye on it,” one teacher testified, “but it was always around the corner and away from us.”

The principal said he thought Chaz was becoming overly sensitive and made many reports teachers could not substantiate. But Chaz’s seventh-grade counselor, Bunny Andrews, testified that she became “very, very concerned” as incidents began to pile up.

“Chaz was bullied,” she said. “I could never deny that.”

Then the physical torment he was experiencing escalated dramatically, Chaz testified: In November 2011, he said, he was sexually assaulted by classmates for the first time.

According to the lawsuit, the boys crawled under the door of the bathroom stall, put the blade of a small knife against his wrist, ordered him to the ground and overpowered him. After they raped him, Chaz said, one boy threatened to burn down his house, harm his family and kill his pets if anyone found out — then sliced into his right arm.

By the following February, Amy noticed Chaz was stressed and unable to complete his work, so she contacted the school.

That was around the time Chaz said he was raped again. He testified he had been changing clothes for gym in a locker-room stall because he felt self-conscious about his looks. A different boy pushed his way in past a broken lock as a second boy stood guard outside.

The boy forced him against the wall and ripped down his shorts, Chaz said, and it was over in less than two minutes. He stayed silent, he said, cowed by the threats of the first assault.

One day in late spring — Chaz can’t recall whether it was April or May — the school’s power went out shortly before lunch so he left class early to beat the crowd to the cafeteria. As he passed a bathroom, he testified, he was grabbed from behind, dragged inside and pinned against the back wall. It was too dark to see his attackers, but he felt a boy on either side hold his arms. After they finished raping him, he said, he stuffed toilet paper in his underwear to stop the bleeding.

Again, Chaz didn’t speak out, he said, because he was afraid.

Still, records show the school knew Chaz’s bullying had become more physical, including an attack he reported in which he was stabbed with a pencil, with the lead breaking off in his arm.

In June, school officials created a safety plan that included a teacher escorting him between classes. Two days later, after others gave him grief, Chaz told his escort, “Please, just don’t. This is making things worse.”

By the end of seventh grade, Chaz was missing days of class and easily agitated and angry. Amy called a lawyer at a non-profit defense fund who thought Chaz might have a case because he was bullied over his perceived sexuality.

On the last day of class, Amy marched into the school district’s office for a copy of its anti-bullying policy. Two weeks later, she filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission — kicking off the legal fight that lasted more than four years.

Obligated to act

Studies have long found bullying can be a precursor to sexual harassment and assault. Typically, victims’ grades drop, attendance falls and rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts increase. Schools sometimes miss the warning signs, though, and think it’s just “kids being kids.”

“There’s just a reluctance to see that there’s sexual violence at such a young age,” said Dorothy Espelage, who researched sexual offenses and harassment among middle schoolers while at the University of Illinois.

In October 2010 and April 2011, the U.S. Education Department reminded public school districts that Title IX obligates them to act on bullying and sexual violence. They are required to investigate — separate from any police inquiry — and take prompt action. The department specifically called out anti-gay slurs, sexual remarks, physical harm and unwanted touching — much of what Chaz testified he was telling school officials.

School districts have had to report all sorts of data about students, from those who received free lunches to those who brought in firearms. But there is no federal mandate to track sexual violence.

By contrast, colleges and universities must keep a public crime log, send emergency alerts about sexual assaults, train staff and aid victims under a federal law named for a student who was raped and murdered in 1986.

“Obviously, we care enough to make colleges report,” said Kansas City, Mo., lawyer Chris Dove, who has represented peer sex-abuse victims. “Shouldn’t we care even more about kids under 18?”

Whether — and how — school sexual violence is tracked is determined by individual states, AP found, with wide variations in whether that information is verified or any training on student-on-student sexual assault is required. A survey of state education departments found:

  • 32 states and the District of Columbia track student sexual assaults, though some did so only if incidents led to discipline like suspension or expulsion; the other states, including Maine, did not.
  • 18 states reported they had training requirements for teachers, school administrators or students about peer-on-peer sex assault.
  • Some of the nation’s largest school districts reported zero sexual assaults over a multi-year period, and some state education officials told AP they doubted their districts’ numbers.

In multiple cases, AP found that school districts bungled investigations, failed to supervise students they knew were trouble, neglected to inform authorities or worse.

A Mississippi high school failed to secure a computer lab that was the scene of a girl’s alleged rape in 2014 and janitors cleaned it before law enforcement could collect evidence, according to court records. District lawyers said that happened because the girl didn’t initially say the sex was forced. The three boys accused were suspended but returned to class days later.

A Missouri middle-school boy with a disciplinary record of groping girls fondled a female student on a school bus in 2014 and told a school official, “I can’t seem to stop,” according to a police report. When he moved to the district’s high school the next year, he allegedly assaulted a girl in a classroom, police said. The boy claimed it was consensual and was initially suspended for 10 days, but later was charged with second-degree rape, the report said.

And in Iowa in 2013, parents didn’t report their daughter’s allegations of sexual assault to authorities because the elementary school principal indicated he would do so. They found out months later that didn’t happen when they sought the police case number, according to the family’s lawsuit. The parents then contacted authorities, and a sheriff’s investigator took over. The results of his findings in the juvenile case are confidential.

When schools mishandle such cases, victims often have little recourse. Prosecutors are sometimes reluctant to charge kids, and clearing legal hurdles to sue districts is difficult.

A federal court in Alabama blocked the case of a 14-year-old girl who said she was used as “rape bait” and assaulted in 2010 in a botched plan to catch a boy suspected of sexual misconduct. Her case did not meet the legal standards to hold the school district liable, the judge wrote, even though he said the plan, devised by a middle school teacher’s aide, was “foolish” and backfired “horribly.” The ruling was successfully appealed, and the district ultimately settled for $200,000.

Settlement amounts can be so low that lawyers are reluctant to take on what are typically lengthy, complicated cases. For families, the painful and costly process usually is driven by more than a desire for money.

“The notion of holding schools accountable and making sure they make changes to address sexual assault is very important to victims,” said Adele Kimmel, a lawyer with the Washington, D.C., legal nonprofit Public Justice.

The investigation

Chaz’s eighth-grade year had begun well but, as the bullying flared again, he stopped attending school. When he finally told his mom in October 2012 that he had been sexually abused, she called school officials to say Chaz would not be returning to Brunswick.

Wallace, the principal, was out of town but alerted his boss, Superintendent Paul Perzanoski. The superintendent said in a deposition that he had not known bullies were targeting Chaz until Amy picked up the anti-bullying policy.

Instead of bringing in an experienced investigator, Perzanoski testified that he decided the junior high administrators could handle it. Wallace led the case with the help of Vice Principal Lisa Cushman — the same two people who were tasked with stopping Chaz’s bullying. Neither had investigated a sexual assault before or had Title IX training.

Cushman interviewed Chaz, with his mom and his guidance counselor present.

And Wallace spoke to the four boys Chaz had identified as playing a role in the attacks, in the presence of their parents and a Brunswick police officer assigned to the school, Mike Andreotti, who later testified the principal hadn’t kept him informed of Chaz’s bullying complaints.

Under Education Department guidelines, schools are to conduct their own investigations separate from police inquiries. But, in his deposition, Wallace said he directed the questioning of the four boys, even though it was Andreotti’s only meeting with the accused.

“It was very strong denials or it was confusion,” Wallace said of the boys’ responses. One, he said, “had no frame of reference for anal sex.”

Wallace testified he surveyed the scenes where Chaz said the attacks took place. He also talked to a coach, who said that based on the space, location and the five to eight minutes boys had before gym, it would be virtually impossible to carry out a rape.

Wallace told Perzanoski the sexual assaults were “unlikely,” but did not submit a written report. He never interviewed Chaz or talked to his parents about his findings. Instead, he emailed the Wings to say Chaz should return to school.

The school resource officer did interview Chaz, over 90 minutes at the police station. Unlike the interview with the accused boys, Chaz’s parents were told to wait outside. Andreotti testified that he wasn’t sure if they might be part of the problem — even though, Amy noted, they were the ones who had called police.

Andreotti told Chaz’s parents he would conduct follow-up interviews with the four boys, but he did not do so after deciding there wasn’t credible evidence of a sexual assault. Prosecutors agreed.

During his deposition, Andreotti was asked whether his viewpoint was changed by a child abuse evaluation he requested, which said Chaz’s statements “were clear, consistent and provided idiosyncratic and sensory details” and found “strong evidence” Chaz had been sexually assaulted.

“Absolutely,” Andreotti said, but he added that a physical examination had found no evidence of recent abuse or trauma. A lawyer for Chaz noted the examiner also said such an absence did not mean abuse didn’t occur.

“That’s correct. It’s leaving the option open that it could have occurred,” Andreotti replied.

The retired police officer declined AP’s requests for an interview. Brunswick police also declined to discuss Chaz’s case or provide a copy of its investigative report, saying juvenile cases were confidential under state law.

Andreotti had interviewed about 20 students and teachers and his investigation was “thorough,” said Commander Mark Waltz, a police spokesman.

“It was all presented to the DA’s office, and there were good reasons they made the decision that they did,” Waltz said, refusing to elaborate. The Cumberland County district attorney’s office declined comment.

To file suit, the Wings needed to convince the Human Rights Commission that Chaz was harassed over his perceived sexuality, that his learning environment turned hostile and that the school knew yet failed to take prompt, appropriate action.

The district said in filings to the commission that the school had taken Chaz’s complaints seriously and argued Chaz’s perception often “did not line up with the reality of the events,” such as the time he reported one of his main bullies hit him with a lacrosse stick. The boy “credibly stated that he tapped” Chaz to say hello, the district said.

Lawyers for the district also alleged Chaz quit coming to class in an attempt to bolster his complaint. In fact, he had been hospitalized in December 2012 — the first of four times — diagnosed with depression, suicidal thoughts and PTSD and told not to return to Brunswick.

In June 2014, the commission’s investigator found reasonable grounds to believe the district had discriminated against Chaz. She said the school district failed to see the “overall picture” of bullying and allowed “a hostile education environment to persist.” But she reached no conclusion on the reported rapes because, she said, the other harassment was sufficient for her finding. She also noted that the scar on Chaz’s arm and his ongoing treatment for depression “tend to support his allegations.”

While the school “had good policies in place … it did not do enough,” in part by handling each incident on a case-by-case basis.

One month later, the commission cleared the way for the Wings to sue, which Amy did in July 2015, alleging Title IX violations. The commission joined as a co-plaintiff, it said, “to ensure that Brunswick has in place effective measures to prevent a hostile education environment based on sex and sexual orientation.”

The district’s lawyers aggressively quizzed Chaz during his eight-hour deposition. “How long was the first one on top of you?” one lawyer asked. “You just did what he asked you to do?”

As the judge neared a decision on whether the case could proceed to trial, the two sides considered a settlement. Weeks of negotiation led to a deal in the fall of 2016: The lawsuit would end, Brunswick would fix some of the tracking flaws that Chaz’s case exposed, and Chaz would get $50,000.

There would not be an apology — one of the things that Chaz had wanted most.

Perzanoski declined AP’s repeated requests to meet with him, Wallace and others involved in Chaz’s case. He offered only a brief email comment, saying a major reason for the settlement was to allow everyone “to put the matter behind them and move forward.”

Season of hope

Chaz and Amy mark progress by the seasons: Last year, for the first time since telling his mom he’d been raped, he didn’t spend part of the fall in a hospital.

“The fall is always a hard time for me every year,” Chaz said, “because that’s the time that the first assault happened. That’s the time when I was finally able to tell my mom about what had happened. It’s also the time that I left Brunswick Junior High School.”

Amy sold the home with the big backyard across the street from her folks where Chaz and his brother had lived all their lives and moved to a nearby town so the boys could attend a different school.

Chaz continued to miss class his first two years at his new technology and science high school, where he received specialized instruction because of his depression and PTSD. After changing medication, he missed fewer classes. He sees a counselor every other week.

He is one of the youngest owners of a booth at a local flea market, where he chats with weekend visitors about his stash of old rotary phones, TVs, and other vintage electronics. He also works part time at a radio station, reading the weather and selling ads, and thinks he might like a career in broadcasting.

In a few weeks, Chaz turns 18 and will graduate. He’d always sworn he’d never leave Maine. Recently, though, he’s been thinking about studying or working out of state. It’s a sign his horizons may be widening.

“I’m still not really sure what I’ll do,” Chaz said. “Life is an open road.”

 February 18, 2016

Eagan Teacher Charged With Stalking 12-Year-Old Student Via Snapchat 

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An Eagan teacher is facing criminal charges for stalking a middle school student via social media, the Dakota County Attorney’s office said Thursday.

Cody Woodrow Hansen, 25, is charged via summons with two counts of stalking a victim under 18.

According to the criminal complaint, the 12-year-old girl was a student in one of Hansen’s classes at Black Hawk Middle School. Charges say he sent her numerous messages from several different usernames from November 2015 to January 2016, which she saved as screenshots. She later turned them over to police.

In the messages, prosecutors say Hansen told the girl she was cute, asked if she’d ever kissed anyone and asked if she liked older men. The student tried to determine who was sending the messages until Hansen admitted he could get into trouble for contacting her, and identified himself as “Mr. H.”

In one exchange, prosecutors say the student told Hansen that what he was doing was illegal and “extremely weird.” She reported the incident to police, saying she didn’t feel safe in Hansen’s classroom.

Authorities say Hansen later admitted to police that he had sent the messages, and that he found the student’s Snapchat username from her Instagram account. He told police he had stopped communication with the student, and “hoped this would all go away.”

In addition to teaching math, a district spokesman says Hansen also spent time as an assistant wrestling coach and assistant ninth-grade football coach at Eagan High School.

Prosecutors say Hansen has resigned his position with the school district. A search on Indeed, a job-finding website, indicates that Hansen recently updated his resume to read that he’s looking for a creative career change allowing him to utilize task-driven skills.


 January 3, 2014

Minnesota teacher charged with having sex with student, 16

A north-central Minnesota high school math teacher and adviser was charged Friday with having sex with one of his female students on at least three occasions, once at a Twin Cities hotel and two other times in his car.

Paul Joseph Johnson, 48, of Backus, Minn., was charged in Beltrami County District Court with third-degree criminal sexual conduct involving the 16-year-old girl from Bemidji, Minn.

Johnson was arrested Wednesday evening, appeared in court Friday and remains jailed.

A statement from Voyageurs Expeditionary School in Bemidji said Johnson “has been placed on unpaid administrative leave effective immediately” as the investigation continues.

Johnson’s bio posted on the charter school’s website said this is his fifth year at Voyageurs and added that he is married, and has three grown children and four grandchildren.

According to the criminal complaint, the girl told sheriff’s investigators that she had been “involved in a romantic sexual relationship [with Johnson] for quite some time” that included sexual intercourse.

One encounter occurred in October while Johnson was in a Twin Cities hotel while in the metro area for a teachers conference, she said.

The other two occurred in the back of his Toyota Prius in Beltrami County, she added.

The girl said that she and Johnson had many conversations in an online chat room and that their sexual relationship was among the topics.

Along with teaching math and being one of the school’s five advisers, Johnson also taught marketing, accounting, business ethics and speech classes, according to his school bio.

Voyageurs, with grades six through 12, focuses on public service and the environment.

Johnson graduated from St. Louis Park High School and Bemidji State University, the bio says.