Former teacher's aide at Black Hills High pleads guilty to sex with student

Staff writerApril 14, 2014 

Former Black Hills para-educator, Courtney Keller, 29, will be sentenced in Thurston County Superior Court on June 2. She is currently out of custody on work release.

JEREMY PAWLOSKI; STAFF WRITER

A former teacher's aide at Black Hills High School pleaded guilty Monday to having sex with a former student she once supervised in detention, court papers state.

The former Black Hills para-educator, Courtney Keller, 29, pleaded guilty Monday to four counts of first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor. She will be sentenced in Thurston County Superior Court on June 2. She is currently out of custody on work release.

Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Skinder said he and Keller's defense attorney will jointly recommend a suspended 5-year prison sentence, and that she be allowed to complete a Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative, or SOSA.

If the judge grants Keller a 5-year suspended sentence and a SOSA, the 5-year prison sentence could be imposed if Keller fails to complete the terms of the SOSA, Skinder said.

A SOSA typically includes sexual deviancy treatment from a licensed mental health professional, and restitution. Under the terms of Keller's guilty plea, she must register as a sex offender, Skinder added.

Tumwater police arrested Keller in April, 2013, based on a former student's disclosure that he had an inappropriate relationship with Keller while he was attending Black Hills High School, and that the relationship progressed to sex over time.

Skinder said Monday that the former student was damaged by the relationship with Keller. "These crimes have had a huge negative impact on his life," Skinder said.

The Tumwater School District's insurer has agreed to pay Keller's former student $300,000 to avoid a civil lawsuit. The former student dropped out of Black Hills in the fall of 2012, his senior year, his attorney, G. Saxon Rodgers has said.

In May, 2013, Keller's aunt, former Black Hills assistant principal Darice Bales, resigned from her job at the high school. At the time Bales resigned, the Tumwater School District was investigating the allegations of sexual misconduct by Keller at the school.

According to court papers, the student told Tuwmater police that his relationship with the then-married "detention lady" progressed from flirting, to making out, to sex. Starting the student's junior year at Black Hills, Keller began providing him "with tobacco and painkillers," including Vicodin and Percoset, court papers state.

The student also told police that Keller once accompanied him to a party at a fellow student's home, according to court papers. The student showed police text messages between him and Keller that were "sexual in nature" and that referenced a past sexual relationship, court papers state.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445; jpawloski@theolympian.com

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