LOCAL NEWS

SLC School Board Member Arrested in Child Porn Investigation

Jun 3, 2021, 6:39 PM | Updated: Jan 18, 2022, 1:57 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – A board member for the Salt Lake City School District has been asked to resign immediately following his arrest in a child pornography investigation.

Joel-Lehi Organista, 29, who was elected last fall and started his term on the district’s Board of Education in January, was booked into jail on Wednesday on suspicion of eight counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.

According to Organista’s jail booking documents, the investigation started with a child pornography report to the CyberTipline of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Investigators write that during a police interview “Organista admitted to having downloaded, viewed, and kept the images and videos containing child pornography in his Dropbox account.”

Joel-Lehi Organista (SLC School District)

Using a search warrant, investigators then got access to Organista’s phone and other electronic devices and report finding a Snapchat account containing sexual conversations with minors.

“In the Snapchat communications, Joel is clearly notified of the ages of the children and asks for naked photographs and directs the children to do sexual acts,” police write in the affidavit of probable cause.

The affidavit goes on to say that Organista has access to young children through his current position of trust with grades kindergarten through high school.

During a press briefing Thursday afternoon Board of Education President Melissa Ford read the following statement:

“Earlier today, six members of the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education were informed of sexual-exploitation-of-a-minor charges brought against Board Member Joél-Léhi Organista.   

“As individual school board members, whose duty it is to protect and enrich the lives of children, we condemn the crimes of which Mr. Organista has been accused. To engage in any such conduct, or to exploit or endanger any child, is indefensible.  

“According to the information we have received from police reports, it appears Mr. Organista has admitted to engaging in some of the activities of which he has been accused. Therefore, Mr. Organista has been asked to resign from his school board seat effective immediately.

“Per Board policy, Mr. Organista will not be allowed on school district property, and he will not be allowed to attend any school- or district-sponsored events, including graduations.”

The district also reminded families that they have support available to any student who is possibly impacted and that they can reach out to school employees for mental health resources.

In addition, the district said that parents should report any child sexual abuse concerns to law enforcement at 801-799-3000 and to the Division of Child and Family Services at 855-323-3237.

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SLC School Board Member Arrested in Child Porn Investigation