The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

October 18, 2012

Neosho teacher leaves job; district cites text message

Sheriff: No charge filed, but probe continuing

NEOSHO, Mo. —  Neosho High School teacher who has been the subject of an investigation by the county Sheriff’s Department has left his job, officials with the school district said Thursday.

The teacher has been under investigation since last month because of alleged inappropriate conduct that took place through text messages with a female student at the school.

School district officials said in a statement: “To the district’s knowledge, there was no sexual contact, but there were inappropriate comments which could be interpreted as solicitations. The teacher was removed from the classroom, and law enforcement officials were notified. The district has cooperated with law enforcement officials throughout the process.”

Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland said late last month that his department was investigating a teacher at the high school in connection with alleged inappropriate electronic communication with a student. The investigation was launched after a parent complained about the communication between the teacher and the parent’s 15-year-old daughter, Copeland said previously.

Copeland has previously declined — and declined again on Thursday — to discuss the content of the conversations between the teacher and the student. He previously said the conversations had taken place electronically, in the form of text messages.

The teacher’s computer and cellphone have been confiscated and turned over to the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force for analysis, according to the sheriff.

“They’re still looking through that,” he said. “It may take a while.”

Although no criminal charges have been filed against the teacher, the results of his department’s investigation have been turned over to the county’s prosecuting attorney, Copeland said.

“Everything we have at this point, we’ve given to the prosecutor’s office,” he said.

According to the district’s statement, the teacher waived his right to a hearing in front of the Board of Education to respond to the district’s allegation, instead submitting his resignation. The resignation was unanimously accepted by board members at their meeting Monday, officials said.

Alma Stipp, interim superintendent, released the statement to the Globe on Thursday. She declined to comment further, saying that the statement was “complete.”



Charge possible

WHEN ASKED whether a criminal charge could be filed against the teacher, pending results of the Cyber Crimes Task Force’s analysis, Sheriff Ken Copeland said: “There certainly could be, yes.”

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