A former guidance counselor at Danel Boone Area High School is facing several criminal charges based on allegations that she was in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student at the school.
40-year-old Jamie Witzel has been charged with statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful contact with a minor, institutional sexual assault, corruption of minors, and indecent assault.
According to investigators, Witel repeatedly had sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old male student in 2016 and 2017. The alleged encounters occurred in Witzel’s office and her car.
Witzel surrendered to police and was released on $50,000 unsecured bail.
This is the second recent incident involving sexual misconduct by an employee of Daniel Boone Area High School.
In September 2012, an English teacher at the school was charged with allegedly having sex with a 15-year-old student. 31-year-old Kristy Risell was charged with statutory sexual assault, institutional sexual assault, indecent assault, indecent exposure, endangering the welfare of children, unlawful contact with a minor, and corruption of minors. She was sentenced to three months of house arrest.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent has experience representing the victims of sexual abuse. We’ve asked him to add a few thoughts on legal recourse for the survivors of these crimes:
Unfortunately, cases of sexual abuse by teachers against students are relatively common. We expect our educational institutions to be safe spaces where our children can learn and develop into contributing members of their communities. But tragically, some of the teachers and other staff members who work in these institutions end up exploiting their positions of trust and power to sexually abuse students.
In some cases, sexual assault at schools only occurs because of negligence. While holding the perpetrator criminally responsible is key, it’s also important for victims to be aware that schools can be held liable for failing to prevent the abuse. For example, a school might be considered negligent if they failed to investigate previous allegations of sexual assault against a teacher, and that teacher eventually sexually assaulted other students.
Determining liability for sexual assault by teachers and school staff members is complex. In order to better understand your legal rights, we advise speaking with an experienced sexual assault victims lawyer.