GOBLES, Mich. (WOOD) — Three teenagers pretended to be a 35-year-old woman online, got explicit images of a teacher and then distributed those images to his students, Van Buren County investigators say.
The kids, all between the ages of 14 and 15, made a dating profile posing as a 35-year-old woman using photos from the internet, Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jim Charon told News 8. Charon said a Gobles teacher sent sexually explicit images and videos to that profile.
Charon said the three teens do not go to the district where the teacher works but that two of them knew him because he was their driver’s education instructor.
“There was some reference that two students were trying to blackmail their driver’s ed teacher. They didn’t carry through on any of those acts, so they didn’t technically blackmail him,” Charon said.
Charon said the three teens did share the explicit pictures and videos to students the teacher taught. Detectives still don’t know why.
“When you’re talking about doing something and you’re pretending to be somebody that you’re not, then all of a sudden private information is shared, you treat that private information as a joke, that’s when people want other people held accountable for certain things — and rightfully so,” Charon said.
The school district got word of the images and called the sheriff’s office Monday night.
The teacher is not accused of any wrongdoing. Charon said the teacher believed he was interacting with a consenting adult. According to investigators, he didn’t know teens were behind the profile until the sheriff’s department contacted him.
“He was doing something he thought was between consenting adults. All of a sudden, now, this guy is basically all over the news for something that he thought was doing something in private with another consenting adult,” Charon said.
Charon said the teens and their families are cooperating with the sheriff’s office’s investigation. The Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office told News 8 it is waiting on the police report to be finished before deciding if it will file criminal charges against the teenagers and whether the case will be handled in juvenile or adult court.
“There were some other allegations that were made that the students were involved in,” Charon said. “So we have to look into that and see what those allegations are that could get minors in trouble.”
In a May 6 press release, Gobles Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Rehlander said the teacher has been placed on paid, non-disciplinary administrative leave. The school is cooperating with the investigation, the superintendent said.
Rehlander said the school would not comment further on the personnel matter.
—News 8 digital executive producer Rachel Van Gilder contributed to this report.