Bountiful Junior High School teacher Valynne Bowers, one of two teachers accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old student, was arraigned in Utah's 2nd District Court in Farmington on Monday March 16th, 2009. During her brief appearance, her attorney, Rich Gallegos, conditionally waived a preliminary hearing and entered not guilty pleas to rape and forcible sodomy, both first-degree felonies. Judge Michael Allphin accepted the plea, then issued a no-contact order directing Bowers not to have any contact with the alleged victim. Media stories published in the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Ogden Standard-Examiner, KSTU Channel 13, and KSL Channel 5.
Later, Gallegos told reporters that they were looking to negotiate a plea deal with Davis County prosecutors. He also said that Bowers is both remorseful and embarrassed over the incident. Bowers' next court hearing is scheduled for April 13th, and she's also slated for a mental health evaluation. KSL news video embedded below:
Before the Davis School District could take any action against her, Bowers submitted her resignation from her teaching position. The other accused teacher, Linda Nef, is also charged with rape of a child and forcible sodomy, both first-degree felonies. She also resigned her teaching position. Her next court hearing is scheduled for March 27th, and she's also slated for a mental health evaluation. Nef went to police earlier this month and admitted to a relationship with the boy, who was once a student in Nef's Utah studies class. KSTU reports that if both teachers are convicted on all charges, each could face 25 years to life in prison. [Ed. Note: As disgusted as I am with these teachers' behavior, that's overkill.]
Even though the 2009 session of the Utah State Legislature is finished, this story has already attracted the attention of two state lawmakers. Reps Sheryl Allen (R-Bountiful) and Julie Fisher (R-Fruit Heights), in response to constituent concerns that direct text messaging between students and teachers appears too intimate and personal, intend to monitor the situation and consider possible legislative solutions during the 2010 session. I definitely share those concerns myself, and hope they will act if school districts themselves fail to address the issue adequately in the meantime.