Probable cause found for sexual misconduct of Black Hills educator

A judge found probable cause Wednesday to support an allegation that former Black Hills High School para-educator Courtney Keller, 28, had a sexual relationship with a former student, starting when he was 16.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham ordered that Keller be released from jail on her personal recognizance, meaning that the married mother of a 4-year-old daughter would be released from jail Wednesday without having to post bail. She has no prior criminal history. Wickham also found probable cause to support the accusation that Keller committed first-degree criminal sexual misconduct with a minor.

Tumwater police arrested Keller on Tuesday, based on the former student’s disclosure that he had an inappropriate relationship with Keller that progressed to sex over time. The student, now 18, dropped out of Black Hills High School during his senior year that began in the fall of 2012, according to his family’s attorney, G. Saxon Rodgers.

The 18-year-old has told police that “the entire school knew about his relationship with Keller.”

Keller resigned from her position as a para-educator after the allegations came to light in late February. Keller’s former duties at the school included supervising detention. In court papers, the 18-year-old told police she was “the detention lady.”

According to court papers:

The former student disclosed the sexual relationship to police and Black Hills Vice Principal Darice Bales in late February, after someone sent the Tumwater School District an anonymous letter outlining the relationship. The former student initially denied the allegation, but then admitted the sexual relationship to Bales, who is Keller’s aunt.

Bales has told police that “no students or staff had ever contacted her with concerns or rumors prior to the beginning of the investigation.”

The former student told police that they began flirting, then “making out” and touching, all during his sophomore year in high school, when he was 16. Starting during his junior year, he said she began providing him “with tobacco and pain killers,” including Vicodin and Percoset.

They also began having sex his junior year, the young man told police. He said that Keller once attended a party with him at another student’s home. He said that two students walked in on him having sex with Keller during the party. The 18-year-old also showed Tumwater detectives texts between him and Keller that are “sexual in nature,” and that referenced “a past sexual relationship.”

The sexual relationship between the two had ended by the end of the young man’s junior year, he said, though they continued to “make out.” He said the relationship ended because Keller was falling in love, and she wanted to leave her husband and move in with him when he turned 18. The young man told police he was “really freaked” by this proposal.

When police interviewed the 18-year-old’s mother, she said that she once became upset when Keller gave her son a ride home. She added that she thought it was odd he was spending so much time in detention without being referred there. She said she believed the relationship was inappropriate.

Keller initially denied an inappropriate relationship, but after the 18-year-old disclosed the sexual relationship to police, she gave no further statements.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445