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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lauren Harrington-Cooper Accused of Sexual Involvements With Four Male High School Students

     In 2013, 31-year-old Lauren Harrington-Cooper earned $45,075 a year as an English teacher and lunch room monitor at Wyoming Valley West High School in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. She and her husband Raphael resided in nearby Kingston, a suburban community across the Susquehanna River from Wiles-Barre in the northeastern part of the state.

     In August 2012, Harrington-Cooper and Raphael started the Cooper Dance Academy that offered instruction in ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, ballroom and Zumba dancing. She also held a position as adjunct professor at Misericordia University, a four-year Catholic school in the town of Dallas not far from Wilkes-Barre.

     On December 12, 2013, the parents of an 18-year-old Wyoming Valley West senior informed the school's principal of sexually explicit text messages sent by Harrington-Cooper to their son. When questioned by his parents and the police, the student said his English teacher, during the past week, had performed oral sex on him three times. He also claimed to have engaged in sexual intercourse with her twice.

     Harrington-Cooper, when interviewed by detectives, allegedly admitted picking up the student and driving around with him before they had sex in her vehicle.

     Plymouth police officers and Luzerne County detectives booked Harrington-Cooper into the county jail on December 18, 2013 on the charge of institutional sexual assault. (In Pennsylvania, a teacher who has sex with a student over 18 can be charged with this third-degree felony. A teacher who has sex with a student younger than 16 can be charged with statutory rape. If the victim is between 16 and 18, the appropriate charge is corrupting a minor.) If convicted of institutional sexual assault, Harrington-Cooper could be imprisoned up to seven years. Shortly after her arrest, the judge released the suspect on $25,000 bond.

     Police arrested the English teacher again on January 9, 2014 on charges of corrupting a minor. According to the criminal complaint, Harrington-Cooper, in October and November of 2013, had performed oral sex on a 17-year-old student. The relationship had allegedly started after Harrington-Cooper told one of her female students that she thought the boy was good looking. The male student responded by leaving the teacher a note that included his cell phone number. Following her arrest on this charge, the judge released the suspect on another $25,000 bail.

     On January 22, 2014, Lauren Harrington-Cooper resigned from her Wyoming Valley West teaching job. Six days later, police officers took her into custody again. This time the criminal allegations involved two boys, one 16 and the other 17. The teacher, in October, November, and December 2013, after meeting the 16-year-old boy at a shopping center, allegedly kissed and rubbed against him in her car. She also showed him the butterfly tattoo on her breast.

     The 16-year-old told detectives that he had taken English from Harrington-Cooper in seventh grade then had her again when he was a junior. He said that because they were carrying on in a public place, he was uncomfortable. She allegedly informed him that she was having trouble in her marriage.

     Later on, the teacher asked both boys to delete the sexually explicit text messages she had sent them, noting that they would soon be questioned by the police.

     In the latter case, the Luzerne County prosecutor charged Harrington-Cooper with unlawful sexual contact. The judge released her on $50,000 bail. (She has pleaded not guilty to these latest charges)

     On March 21, 2014, an attorney from Scranton, Pennsylvania named Susan L. Luckenell informed the Wyoming Valley West School District of her intent, on behalf of the 16-year-old boy, to sue them and the former English teacher for their negligence in allowing the teen to become a "victim of sexual abuse." According to the attorney, her client had been damaged and injured as a result of the sexual experience with the adult teacher.

     In response to Luckenell's expression of intent to sue, the school district solicitor said, "I don't see where the district was negligent in any way."

     Lauren Harrington-Cooper, free on bail, awaits her trial on the sex offense charges. According to reports, following her first arrest, she tried to kill herself. There have been no reports regarding the current status of her marriage. 

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