Teacher accused of sexual relationship with students
by Kellen Short
A Watauga County Schools teacher has been charged after allegations that she engaged in a sexual relationship with two students between 1998 and 2006, the Watauga County Sheriff's Office announced Wednesday.
Amy Tilley Bower, 45, of 279 N.C. 194 South, Vilas, was charged Wednesday with two counts of sexual activity with a student and two counts of indecent liberties with a child, the sheriff's office reported.
The allegations involve two male students who were 15 at the time of the incidents, according to arrest and court records.
The sheriff's office received a report July 23 about the alleged inappropriate contact. Authorities were told the sexual activity occurred during the years of 1998 to 2000 and 2004 to 2006.
Watauga County Schools said in a statement Wednesday that administrators learned of the investigation Aug. 20, the day after Bower resigned her position as fifth-grade teacher at Cove Creek School.
Bower was first employed by the school system as a substitute teacher in the 1996-97 school year, primarily at Bethel Elementary, according to WCS.
She was hired on an interim basis in January 1997 at Bethel and taught there for approximately five years, said WCS Spokesman Marshall Ashcraft.
Bower took a one-year leave of absence before working at Mabel Elementary from 2004 to 2009, he said.
She worked with summer school in June 2006 at Cove Creek and was employed there full-time starting in August 2010, Ashcraft said.
He said he was not sure which grade assignments Bower had during her full career.
Arrest warrants offer conflicting information. The documents state that Bower was a teacher at Bethel during both alleged incidents, although that timeline doesn't match her employment history.
"If the allegations are true, the behavior violated the trust of students, the ethics of the teaching profession, our school system policies, and the law," interim Superintendent David Fonseca said. "We take such possible misconduct very seriously. We have fully supported and cooperated with the investigation of this case by the Watauga County Sheriff's Office, and we are grateful for their work."
Bower was issued a $50,000 secured bond and is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 17. She has been released from custody after posting bond, Capt. Dee Dee Rominger said.
If convicted, Bower also could face revocation of her teaching license upon action by Watauga County Schools.
Bower had undergone two criminal background checks during her employment -- once
when she was hired and again in 2004 as she returned from her leave of absence.
Neither indicated any problems, Ashcraft said.
He said he didn't know whether Bower had faced any prior disciplinary actions and said he wasn't aware of any earlier complaints against her.
In addition to criminal background checks on all employees, the school system contacts references when hiring and reviews transcripts, Ashcraft said. School system policies prohibit any sexual contact between students and teachers, he said.
Fonseca called the news "very disappointing" and a "matter of great concern to our schools and our community." He said in a statement that he understood the arrest could generate concerns about students' safety.
"We want to reassure parents and everyone else that we continue to share their concern and that student safety continues to be our number one priority," he said. "At the same time, it is important to emphasize that the charges in this case involve the alleged behavior of one individual. Our confidence in the integrity, professionalism and commitment of our teachers and other school personnel remains fully intact.
"We hope that the alleged misconduct of this one individual will not be allowed to tarnish the outstanding work of our personnel in the classroom and throughout our school system."