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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Teacher Lee Riddle: Out-Of-Control At Widefield High

     In 2009, Lee Riddle, a 25-year-old graduate of the University of Michigan, began teaching German at Widefield High School outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado. By all accounts he was a popular and outstanding teacher with a spotless record at the school. But in November 2013 Mr. Riddle lost his good name and his career as well.

     On November 15, 2013, the El Paso County (Colorado) Sheriff's Office received a tip that the 29-year-old teacher had made inappropriate physical contact with several male students ages 15 to 17. One of the complaints involved the teacher grabbing boys between the legs in what the teacher called "cup checks." (Cup check refers to the procedure used to verify the appropriate installation of protective athletic gear for the groin area.)

     The principal of Widefield High placed Mr. Riddle, who denied the allegations, on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.

     On November 18 and 19, 2013, investigators with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office questioned several of Mr. Riddle's male students. All of these boys had experienced classroom encounters with the teacher, behavior that put Mr. Riddle in an extremely bad light.

     According to investigators, the suspect had "cup checked" several students, pinched one boy's nipple and called him "Cutie," spoke graphically to students about gay sex, showed sexually explicit cellphone photographs, and while giving one boy a ride home, asked him if he were bisexual.

     On November 20, 2013, an El Paso County prosecutor charged Lee Riddle with 18 counts of sexual assault on a child under 18 by a person of trust. The suspect pleaded not guilty to all counts. The judge set his bail at $25,000.

     Mr. Riddle's trial got underway in August 2014 in Colorado Springs. A week later, the jury found the defendant guilty of all charges. School officials immediately fired him.

     At Riddle's sentencing hearing in November 2014, the judge, before handing down the sentence, noted that the convicted man didn't seem to appreciate the seriousness of his crimes due to the fact that none of the boys had been physically injured. The judge, noting the seriousness of these offenses, sentenced the 31-year-old former teacher to an indeterminate sentence that will keep him behind bars for a minimum of eight years.

     Compared to much lesser sentences given to rapists and pedophiles, this sentence seems a bit harsh.  

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