West Fargo Teacher Facing Five Felony Charges after Allegedly having Sexual Relationship with Student
West Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The current teacher of the year in North Dakota is tonight, facing 5 felonies allegedly involving a student from West Fargo.
Aaron Knodel is charged with felony corruption or solicitation of minors. He's been on paid leave since February.
The alleged victim says she had a sexual relationship with Knodel during the 2008-2009 school year, when she was 17 and in his English class.
She claims two of the encounters happened in a classroom.
She provided the North Dakota BCI with a copy of a "Twilight" book that allegedly contains notes from Knodel referencing their relationship.
A handwriting analyst believes it is his writing.
Dr. David Flowers/West Fargo Superintendent: "Monday evening's board agenda contains a recommendation to place Mr. Knodel on suspension without pay or benefits pending the outcome of this ongoing case."
Knodel's attorney Robert Hoy released a statement on behalf of Knodel.
He says there are two sides to every story, and he is certain that a jury hearing all the evidence would find Knodel "not-guilty."
News of the charges came as shock to many in the community. Knodel was a well-respected teacher, admired by his students.
We first learned that there was a criminal investigation involving Knodel about a week ago, but at the time didn't know what it was about. Many people were surprised when they learned the nature of the charges filed today.
"You send your kids to school and you think they're going to be safe, and then this goes on."
Johnnie Bowling has grandkids in the West Fargo School system.
She and other parents we spoke to say the news that High School teacher Aaron Knodel is accused of having a sexual relationship with a student is very concerning.
Johnnie Bowling/Has Grandkids in WF Schools: "How many are we letting into our school system that we don't know are doing this."
Comments poured in on our Facebook page, several pointing out that he's innocent until proven guilty.
Some question the timing of the complaint, five years after the alleged crimes.
Many viewers criticized the alleged victim, saying things like "tell me how a willing participant is a victim."
Others say he's at fault; one viewer says "he abused his power and turned into a predator."
"He would always encourage you to do your best."
Andrea Sattler is a former student of Knodel's. She graduated from West Fargo High School in 2010 - a year after the alleged victim.
Andrea Sattler/Former Student: "It surprised me, because I thought he was an exemplary person."
She says he was a great educator who expected the best from everyone, and even encouraged her to come out of her shell.
Sattler: "He's a good guy. I don't want people to automatically assume the worst."
Court documents indicate that Knodel iniated the relationship by sending text messages to the student beginning in December of 2008. The student stated that the messages became more personal and sexually suggestive over time, with Knodel at one point stating he was planning on leaving his wife.
Knodel and the student allegedly had their first physical encounter in mid-February of 2009 when Knodel's wife was out of town. The student said that there were 5 to 10 further incidences of sexual contact with Knodel. Court documents indicate the relationship ended on March 9th, 2009 - Knodel's birthday - when the student sent a text message to Knodel. Knodel told the student his wife had seen the text message, and that the relationship needed to end.
Knodel is facing two Class B felonies and three Class C felonies.