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Dakota Ridge custodian suspected of 'sexting' with student

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By AJ Vicens

A custodian at Dakota Ridge High School suspected of exchanging sexually explicit material with a student via text messages has been suspended. The custodian could face charges from the Jefferson County sheriff's office.

Jacki Kelley, spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, confirmed May 5 that the custodian is being investigated under the criminal statute related to sexual exploitation of a child. If convicted, the employee could face four to 12 years in prison, or heavily supervised probation that would require lifetime registration as a sex offender.

"(The allegation is that) sexually explicit material was sent back and forth between the two," Kelley said. "Right now it's only an allegation. We're attempting to collect evidence and conduct interviews that would support the allegations."

Kelley added that the sheriff's office believes it is "an isolated incident involving one student and one staff member." She wouldn't identify the suspect since he hadn't been interviewed or arrested.

Jeffco Public Schools spokeswoman Lynn Setzer also confirmed the investigation May 5.

"There is a Jeffco employee who is under investigation for sexual exploitation of a child," she said. "He is a Dakota Ridge employee."

Setzer said the man was placed on unpaid administrative leave April 14. He's been a full-time custodian since March 2008 and was a substitute custodian while he was a student at Dakota Ridge on and off between 2006 and 2008.

The alleged incident appears to be a case of "sexting," in which people send sexually suggestive photos, videos or language to each other via text messaging on their cell phones.

Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey couldn't comment on the Dakota incident because his office hasn't seen it yet. But in general, this type of situation is evaluated for prosecution on a case by case basis.

"Theoretically, we could do that — prosecute somebody for sending those images over the Internet," Storey said. "I can't say we wouldn't do it, but it's case by case."

Teaching children and showing them the dangers of sending out photos like this is the key to preventing it, Storey said.

"When it comes to the Internet, and phones, you have this shroud of being anonymous, but you're really not," Storey said.

 

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.