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AN OPEN SECRET: Valley teacher resigns after students accuse him of explicit behavior

A district spokesperson said they recently learned of the messages, but sources tell 12 News it's been an open secret for years.

PHOENIX — A Valley high school teacher has resigned after dozens of young women and girls have come forward saying he was inappropriately messaging them on social media and asking them to hang out outside of school.

The Deer Valley Unified School District said in a tweet Tuesday night that the teacher "who has been the recent focus of social media" resigned. 

"The investigations currently being conducted by DVUSD, Arizona Dept. of Education (ADE), and Phoenix Police will continue," the tweet read. 

"DVUSD is fully cooperating with police and ADE on their investigations."

The announcement came after the women's posts circulated online.

One student said he sent her a photo of his genitals just months after graduating.

12 News is not naming the teacher because he has not been charged with a crime; However, students say his interactions with them violated district policy.

“He replied to me on Twitter and he told me to meet him in his classroom and that he could help me out," said Colleen, a former student at Barry Goldwater High School.

Colleen detailed her first interaction with a male teacher who is now on paid leave. 

She didn't have him as a teacher herself so she was confused about why she was hearing from him on her personal social media account.

Colleen was a sophomore and 16 years old at the time.

“We all used to hang out at this coffee place called Dutch Bros near our high school and he would always be there and he would ask us to hang out with him. Ask us to talk to him," Colleen said.

Colleen said the invitations to hang out outside of school and the messages on social media would continue.

Credit: 12 News

“He would tell us to save his name in our phones to something else in case our phones got, you know, confiscated," Colleen said.

“As a 16-year-old, you might think is this guy like hitting on me? Is this flirting? And then you tell yourself, 'Well, no of course not because he’s literally double my age and he is a teacher at my high school.”

Colleen is now 22 years old and is concerned as she looks back at this teacher's behavior.

Fearful she was not alone, and after seeing no action taken by the Deer Valley Unified School District, Colleen shared her experience with her 60,000-plus followers on Twitter.

Colleen said she previously tried calling the school district to report the teacher's behavior. She said she talked to six separate district employees but nobody ever took a report.

Her post on Twitter went viral and she received dozens of responses from other young women and girls. Some posted screenshots of messages they also received from the same teacher.

“He would comment on my posts on all my social media just saying flirty comments," said Amanda, another former Barry Goldwater High School student.

Amanda said she and the teacher in question became Facebook friends while she was in high school.

Months after she graduated, his behavior escalated.

Credit: 12 News

“He was texting me one night just seeing how I was doing but then he told me that he was drunk and then I received this [explicit] pic and so that’s when I thought, 'OK, what is he doing?' because I was his former student," Amanda said.

“It’s tough because I thought I could trust somebody who I could go to for a safe environment.”

According to a Deer Valley Unified School District spokesperson, the district was recently made aware of the inappropriate messages and the teacher was placed on paid administrative leave. Paid leave is standard practice, according to the spokesperson.

In a statement, the spokesperson said:

"While we cannot provide details of investigations, anytime a complaint is made about a staff member, DVUSD thoroughly investigates allegations and takes appropriate actions, which can include discipline up to termination."

Sources tell 12 News this teacher's actions have been an open secret and known within the district for years.

“He was crossing that boundary and that’s exactly what grooming looks like," said Terri Miller, president of SESAME, an organization aimed at stopping sexual abuse and harassment by teachers. “It is the one school safety issue that is usually ignored.”

Requests made by 12 News to speak with the teacher in question have not been returned.

The school district denied a 12 News request for an on-camera interview.

“I think change needs to happen at a district level so this problem does not continue," Colleen said.

Click here for more resources about sexual harassment and abuse by teachers or staff towards students.

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