New Brighton substitute teacher charged with having sex with students

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The attorney for a New Brighton Area School District teacher accused of having sex with two of her students said that whatever happened in the separate incidents occurred between consenting adults.

High school English teacher Tiffany Leiseth, 26, of Moon, is charged with two felony counts of intercourse and sexual contact with a student, according to court documents, as well as one misdemeanor count of providing minors with alcohol. Both male students are 18 and were in Ms. Leiseth's classes this school year. The two students, both seniors, had finished classes at the high school May 27. However, district Superintendent Joseph Guarino maintained to investigators that the students are considered as such until they officially graduate.

The sexual encounters occurred at the teacher's home May 27 and 28 while her husband was away on business, according to the criminal complaint. Each of the male students was offered beer, although only one of them accepted, and reportedly received text messages containing nude pictures from the teacher.

Two days later, May 30, a teacher overheard students discussing obscene photographs that were sent to a student. A person who police were unable to identify also phoned Mr. Guarino and told him that a female teacher was sending lewd text messages to male students, the complaint said.

The school notified police, and an officer interviewed the student in possession of the photos, according to the complaint.

Those photos, the 18-year-old told police that day, were sent to him by Ms. Leiseth. The student alleged that was the extent of the sexual relationship, but on June 3, more photos surfaced, this time on the phone of another male student, who also denied further sexual involvement with the teacher, the complaint said.

After speaking with Ms. Leiseth, a fellow teacher told Mr. Guarino that the accused had sex with two senior male students, according to the complaint.

Mr. Guarino suspended Ms. Leiseth on June 1, without pay, two days before the second set of photos was discovered. She had served as a permanent substitute this school year teaching English.

“I'm not going to get in a war at this point with the alleged victims’ families,” said Michael DeRiso, Ms. Leiseth’s attorney. “The reality is you had three consenting adults once school let out. Obviously, the district attorney disagrees, and we’re going to pursue it.”

Ms. Leiseth is scheduled for a preliminary hearing July 22.

"The New Brighton Area School District promptly reported the events detailed in the criminal complaint to the local law enforcement and other state agencies as soon as we were made aware," Mr. Guarino said in a prepared statement.

“The district has provided our complete cooperation with all involved agencies in the matters that were reported and we will continue to do so through the completion of the case. Although we would like to provide further comment, we are unable to do so in light of pending litigation. The individual is no longer employed by the district and we are unable to make further comment as this is a personnel matter and the law prohibits us from making comments on matters of personnel."


Michael Majchrowicz: mmajchrowicz@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @mjmajchrowicz First Published July 9, 2014 12:00 AM


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