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Teacher with Sequim roots accused of sexual misconduct with Tacoma students
Meredith Claire Powell, 24, a teacher with Sequim roots, faces two counts of child rape in the third degree and one count of communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
Powell, a 2007 Sequim High School graduate and University of Idaho graduate, had been teaching math at Lincoln High School in Tacoma since Sept. 4, 2012.
She pled not guilty to the charges in Pierce County Superior Court on Feb. 7, a day after being arrested.
Powell was released to her mother in Sequim until her next court appearance on Feb. 25.
According to court documents, the Tacoma School District reported Powell to Tacoma Police on Monday, Feb. 4, for an alleged inappropriate contact between her and a 17-year-old student. Powell had written a letter to the boy’s girlfriend apologizing for “promiscuous” and “unprofessional” comments and texts sent to the boy.
Police contacted Powell at home prior to her arrest, according to the documents. She waived her Miranda rights, telling police the boy was her student last year and he came to her classroom for math help and to talk about life issues.
Powell gave the boy and two other students her cell number, court documents state. Powell told police that on either Jan. 24 or 25, while drunk at home, she allegedly received a text from the 17-year-old.
Court documents indicate that the two later engaged in a similar conversation by text, in which the boy said he had a girlfriend. The documents state Powell wrote the boy’s girlfriend a letter of apology on Feb. 3.
The 17-year-old boy said in an interview with detectives that Powell had texted him her home address. He told police he sensed Powell wanted to have sex with him per the texts and he thought if he went to her house they might have sex.
According to court documents, Powell also admitted to kissing a then 15-year-old boy on Jan. 17 in her classroom after an assembly.
Court documents show detectives interviewed the 15-year-old boy involved in the encounter. He confirmed kissing and inappropriate touching. He said he had sent her a text asking if she wanted to stay after the assembly and she agreed.
According to court documents, the boy told police that on the day of the assembly the two had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior.
Court documents state a second 15-year-old said he and Powell had been sending texts to each other, including her sending him a nude photo. He said they kissed, touched inappropriately and she performed oral sex on him a few days following the assembly.
In a second interview with police, court documents show, Powell confirmed she had performed oral sex on the second 15-year-old boy in her classroom while the door was possibly locked. She also confirmed she had engaged in inappropriate touching and had previously sent him nude photos.
According to court documents, Powell also admitted to kissing and inappropriate touching with the first 15-year-old boy. They began sending inappropriate texts after New Year’s Eve. Powell told police she knew what she had done was wrong, the court documents state.
Dan Voelpel, director of public relations with the Tacoma School District, said Powell is currently on unpaid administrative leave as of Feb. 7, which could change depending on the outcome of her hearing.
The three students are receiving a custom support counseling plan depending on their individual needs, Voelpel said, and they are being treated as victims and are not facing any disciplinary action.
Following the news announcement of Powell’s alleged conduct, Lincoln High School hosted a crisis counseling team on Feb. 7, which some students and staff participated in, Voelpel said.
All new staff at Lincoln receive formal training called Boundary Invasion Training, Voelpel said, which was instituted five years ago after a teacher in the district was arrested for molesting two brothers.
He said the training involves what is and isn’t acceptable between staff and students. Powell participated in the training.
Kelly Shea, superintendent of Sequim School District, said Powell was a student teacher in Sequim High School in the winter of 2012 and a substitute teacher in spring 2012.
He said there were no complaints against her during her time as a teacher and that Powell received standard substitute teacher orientation, which includes an online presentation and handbook on matters such as sexual harassment, prior to working for the school.
Shea said he is not aware of Sequim schools offering counseling to students in relation to Powell’s case.
Powell graduated from Sequim High School in 2007 and previously attended Olympic Peninsula Academy. She was active in sports, honor society and was named to the top 10 percent of her class academically.
The amount of time Powell could be sentenced to has not been determined.
Child rape in the third degree is considered a Class C felony and is punishable by up to five years in jail, a fine of $10,000, or both.
The rape of a child in the third degree occurs when a person has sexual intercourse with another who is between 14-16 years old, is not married to the perpetrator and the perpetrator is at least 48 months older than the victim.
Because Powell has no previous offenses, the charge for communication with a minor for immoral purposes is a gross misdemeanor, which could result in up to 364 days in jail, a $5,000 fine or both.