Courtney Jarrell is a former high school teacher and coach in Utah who pleaded guilty to reduced charges and avoided jail for a sexual relationship with a female student who was 17 years old at the time.
The 23-year-old Courtney Jarrell (mugshot photo above; more pictures below), was a high school math teacher and basketball coach at Riverton High School in Riverton, Utah. She is also known in media reports by her full name, Courtney Louise Jarrell.
According to a report in the Desert News, Jarrell was originally arrested and charged with two felonies; object rape and forcible sexual abuse. The latter charge carries a maximum sentence of one to 15 years in prison.
As part of a plea deal she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge, sexual battery. She was sentenced to 18 months of probation, 100 hours of community service, and a $900 fine. As it is not a felony charge she will not be required to register as a sex offender but she did have her teaching license revoked.
The then-17-year-old female student had testified that she met Jarrell — a basketball coach, as noted — when trying out for the basketball team at the school. She did not make the team, but developed a player-coach relationship with Jarrell.
The student further testified it was Jarrell wrote a note expressing her feelings for her which led to an exchange of phone numbers. The relationship eventually became sexual. Jarrell was 22 years old at the time, and was in her first year of teaching.
The Desert News goes on to point out that central to the case was whether Courtney Jarrell — who was neither the teacher or the coach of the student — held a “position of special trust” and thus able to “exercise undue influence” as per precedent set in a previous court case which reached the Utah Supreme Court, State v. Watkins.
Jarrell’s defense attorney, Ken Brown, is quoted by the publication as noting that the plea agreement reached acknowledges that Jarrell had not used a “position of special trust” — in her case as either a coach or a teacher in the relationship that developed between her and the student.
He said of the plea that it “sort of recognized that she didn’t abuse her position of trust.” He went on to say, “From my perspective, these two people were in love — she wasn’t just abusing her position of trust for sexual favors.”
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill is quoted as saying, “The victim and her parents wanted the case to be resolved. Their concern wasn’t whether the defendant should go to jail. They didn’t want her life to be ruined, but they wanted her to not be able to teach again.”
As to the plea deal, Courtney Jarrell herself spoke out with tearful words in court as the Salt Lake Tribute reports. She said, “I’ve lost my teaching license — that was something I worked really hard for, and I’ve been punished throughout the whole year. I’ll never be in a school again like that. I don’t even know if I can go on field trips with my nieces or nephews ever again.”
The Courtney Jarrell case made headlines locally and ultimately internationally, for raising important issues of the role of educators and students, and trust and violation of same. Whether the plea deal was appropriate is likely something that will continue to provoke much discussion in the court of public opinion.
Photos: Courtney Jarrell
Credit: Facebook, Jordan School District
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