Former Teacher Arrested
WHEELING – West Virginia State Police arrested Jennifer Bennett on Tuesday for allegedly exchanging nude pictures with a former student while she was a teacher at Wheeling Middle School.
Ohio County Magistrate Patricia Murphy arraigned Bennett, 35, of Wheeling on a charge of “employment or use of a minor to produce obscene matter or assist in doing sexually explicit conduct.”
Bennett resigned from her teaching position at Wheeling Middle in February after learning she was the target of a police investigation.
According to a State Police report, Bennett was the boy’s seventh-grade teacher at Wheeling Middle School, where she taught reading and language arts. The boy, now 17, said Bennett started sending him text messages in August 2009, when he was a 15-year-old high school freshman. Their communication continued into February, when police interviewed both the victim and Bennett.
The messages reportedly turned sexual, and the boy and Bennett started exchanging pictures of their genitals, police said. The boy said he and Bennett exchanged approximately 20 sexually explicit pictures, the report states.
The boy’s mother reportedly discovered he and Bennett were communicating and confiscated his cell phone in early 2011. It is unclear if she was aware of the alleged sexual nature of their exchanges.
The boy’s mother then suspected he and Bennett were communicating via social media, the report states, and consequently discovered their online conversations.
“Yeah I’m not good at goodbyes and I guess I didn’t know that meant forever,” Bennett told the boy, according to the police report.
He responded, “If I say bye it means bye … Like that’s how it is.”
“I don’t know what to say … It’s not like I did anything to cause you to say goodbye forever,” Bennett reportedly continued. “Considering everything you know about my past I just never figured (you would) be so (callous) to just throw me away but I guess it’s whatever.”
During a February in-home interview with State Police, Bennett reportedly admitted to exchanging sexually explicit cell phone pictures with the boy. On Feb. 7, she submitted her resignation from her teaching position, which the Ohio County Board of Education accepted during its Feb. 13 meeting.
“Jennifer Bennett is no longer employed by Ohio County Schools,” Superintendent George Krelis said Wednesday. “And the school system followed all of the proper procedures in reporting the matter to the appropriate agencies when allegations were brought to our attention.”
Murphy issued a warrant for Bennett’s arrest Monday, which State Police served the following day.
Bennett remains free on $10,000 bond while awaiting a preliminary hearing before Ohio County Magistrate Joe Roxby. If convicted, she faces 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Bennett has two children, ages 12 and 6.