West High Teacher Arrested, Accused Of Sexual Abuse
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A teacher at West High School was arrested at school in Salt Lake City today, accused of sexual abuse in an illegal relationship with a one-time student.
He’s on administrative leave while police and the Salt Lake City School District investigate. Police and the school district want to find out whether other students were victimized, too.
“This is incredibly alarming to us who work at the school district and we know the parents will be incredibly concerned as well,” said Yandary Chatwin, a Salt Lake City School District Spokesperson.
Sterrett “Rhett” Neale, 54, of Salt Lake City, faces nine felony sex abuse charges, including forcible sex abuse with a former student.
“Someone who is not a student anymore, who graduated I believe in 2018 who was a student at the time that these alleged events occurred,” said Chatwin.
Neale has been a creative writing and language arts teacher at the high school the past 25 years, according to the district. He started in August 1994.
“He’s in a special position there, a position of trust,” said Detective Jess Perea, with the Salt Lake City Police Department. “As parents, you send your kids to school to be safe, to learn, you don’t want to worry about anything like this happening.”
The victim told investigators that she and Neale started having sexual contact in the teacher’s classroom in March 2017. According to court papers, that happened once or twice a week until May that year.
“That is incredibly alarming,” said Chatwin. “Which is part of why we want to conduct our own investigation.”
That summer of 2017, they started having sexual contact at Neale’s house, and that continued once a week, or every other week, until this February, according to the probable cause statement.
“If there are any other victims, they should come forward and call the police,” said Perea.
Investigators are interested in talking with any other people who know what the teacher was doing.
“We want to make sure that our parents trust that the school has the best interests of students at heart, and we want them to know that we are conducting our own investigation into that,” said Chatwin.
If anyone in the school community is affected by this, the district has made crisis counselors available.
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