Arizona School Hired Teacher Accused of Sexual Misconduct in W.V.

The accused admitted to engaging in an “emotional relationship” with a student while working as a high school assistant principal.

Arizona School Hired Teacher Accused of Sexual Misconduct in W.V.

An Arizona school district hired a teacher right after he resigned from a West Virginia high school following allegations of sexual misconduct with a student.

Pete Cheesebrough, who was an assistant principal at University High School in Morgantown, W.V., was placed on administrative leave in March 2017, reports AZ Central. He later resigned in May 2017 and was hired as a science teacher at Scottdale’s Coronado High School in June 2017.

Cheesebrough admitted to engaging in an “emotional relationship” with a teenage student while working at University High. In a West Virginia hearing, the student testified she recalled thinking Cheesebrough had feelings for her when she was 16. By age 18, the student said the two kissed a few times and communicated over text message and email.

The student also testified Cheesebrough showed her favoritism starting her freshman year, such as letting her pick classes that her friends were in.

Administrators confronted Cheesebrough about the relationship twice. In a Feb. 2017 meeting, he said he had never seen the student outside of the school and did not communicate with her through emails or text. Cheesebrough was warned to stay away from the student but reportedly emailed the student after the meeting.

Cheesebrough’s case highlights a loophole found in an exposé earlier this year. The Arizona Republic and KJZZ reviewed more than 100 educator sexual misconduct cases and found those accused can sometimes jump from one state to another because the length of a state’s investigation can vary.

An email obtained by The Arizona Republic shows West Virginia investigators told Arizona investigators of allegations against Cheesebrough back in 2017.

On Oct. 31, 2017, Garnett Burns, then-chief investigator with the Arizona Department of Education, emailed a West Virginia investigator to thank him for sending information on Cheesebrough, according to records obtained by The Arizona Republic.

“I do appreciate you contacting me so I have a head start on this and am able to prevent further issues in our schools here,” she wrote.

The Arizona Department of Education placed blame on West Virginia investigators, indicating they had to wait for them to complete their investigation before conducting their own, according to moms.com.

“This is really a question for the West Virginia Department of Education and why it took that organization two years to complete its investigation,” Stefan Swiat, a spokesman with the Arizona Department of Education, wrote in an email.

It wasn’t until Jan. 2018 that West Virginia suspended Cheesebrough’s administrator certificate for a year starting in Jan. 2019. The state, however, did not suspend the certificate he holds that allows him to teach. According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, West Virginia officials said they did not want to revoke his teaching certificate because they “did not want to interfere with Cheesebrough’s new job in Arizona.”

Arizona education officials also said its investigators tasked with handling these cases are extremely overworked, which lengthens the time it takes to complete an investigation. The agency has asked lawmakers to fund four more investigators for the upcoming budget year.

About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Senior Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy’s mother, brother, sister-in-law and a handful of cousins are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

In her free time, Amy enjoys exploring the outdoors with her husband, her son and her dog.

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