SPOKANE, Wash. – A former Shadle Park High School teacher pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor Wednesday; charges related to what police call an ‘ongoing pattern of sexual abuse' with a then-student at Shadle Park High School.
Ryan Murphy taught at Shadle Park for more than a decade, and was also an assistant track coach. He resigned last August while under investigation for violating the Spokane Public School District's "boundary invasion" policy.
Court records show Murphy offered to help a 15-year-old student with her writing, and then asked her to go with him to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. There, he told her he had feelings for her, and tried to kiss her.
Records show when the student was 16-years-old, he asked her to meet him at Cliff Park, began texting her, and "pressured her until she began to have a consensual sexual relationship."
Per Washington law, the age of consent is 16. However, when the relationship involves a school employee in a position of power, the age of consent is 18, not 16.
"The statute was written to protect minors from teachers, coaches, people in a supervisory position to minors," Spokane Police Detective Mark Griffiths explained.
Records show Murphy met the girl at his home while his wife was away, and sometimes even in school parking lots. Police say he fostered the relationship by giving her gifts and writing her poems; evidence that is now part of the police investigation.
Police say Murphy texted the girl almost 20,000 times during the course of a year and a half.
But records show, when a second student reported inappropriate conduct involving Murphy, and Murphy began driving by her family home when she was in college, the girl decided to come forward.
She originally spoke with school officials to report what SPS calls events of a ‘non criminal nature,' but then when she spoke with police, the full extent of the events was revealed.
Murphy was immediately placed on administrative leave by Spokane Public Schools, and then resigned.
If convicted, Murphy is facing up to five years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine.
KHQ called Murphy for comment, but our call was not returned.
Here is the full statement from Spokane Public Schools Chief Human Resources Officer Tennielle Jeffries-Simmons:
"A senior student made allegations of a non-criminal nature, including inappropriate boundaries and text messages, last March and we immediately put the teacher on administrative leave. He has never returned to work. Technically his employment ended Aug. 31 when he agreed to resign.
The District has been cooperating with law enforcement for nearly a year and will continue to do so.
The District has also been talking with the department at the state (Office of Professional Practices) that makes decisions on revocation, discipline and/or suspension of a teacher's license. We trust they will take the appropriate action based on their investigation. We are aware OPP has been in contact with SPD.
We want people to know that we take allegations of this nature seriously as demonstrated by our handling of this matter."