An Iowa school district is under scrutiny after a former teacher convicted of recording a high school athlete as she changed was allowed to coach a spelling bee program involving students.
According to Des Moines Register, Trent Yoder, now 47, pleaded guilty in 1998 to the exploitation of a minor for recording the student at an Anita elementary school where he worked as a teacher. Alarmingly, Mid-Prairie school officials told the newspaper that they’re aware of Yoder’s record but will still allow him to volunteer at schools in the district.
“They’re putting other children in jeopardy,” one of Yoder’s former students, Katie Pollock, told the newspaper. “
“It gives me a certain level of discomfort knowing that he’s back in the school system and knowing that people are OK with it.”
Yoder, then 28, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and was ordered to register as a sex offender. However, the Register reported that the sentence was reduced to 1 and 1/2 months and four years of probation. Yoder was also purged from the state’s sex offender registry after 10 years.
In a statement issued to KCRG, Superintendent Mark Schneider said Yoder, who is a parent to students enrolled in the school district, began volunteering at Kalona Elementary in Fall 2014. At one point, Schneider informed Yoder that he had failed a background check and was barred from volunteering. He told the station that he changed his mind in 2015 as Yoder appeared remorseful for his actions and because he’d received letters of support for the ex-teacher.
Schneider told the Register that Yoder has also chaperoned elementary school students on their field trips and built sets for four of the last high school plays. While the district didn’t notify parents of Yoder’s presence, the superintendent claimed he told school principals that Yoder must be with another adult at all times.
In light of the controversy, Schneider said the spelling bee club, which is not sponsored by the district, is no longer allowed to use “Mid-Prairie” in their title and can no longer use school facilities, according to The Gazette. Furthermore, Schneider said Yoder is only allowed to be involved with activities involving his sons.
“The decision I made was not easy and was not taken lightly,” Schneider said to KCRG.
“The central question for each of us to answer in our own hearts is: Can a person learn and change from his/her past mistakes?”
[Featured Image: Trent Yoder/Cass County Sheriff’s Office]