Add four more felony charges — and two more alleged victims — to the case against a former teacher who brought the Omaha Public Schools under fire for both his purported treatment of underage girls and the district's treatment of him.
Prosecutors on Wednesday leveled their most serious charges against former Nathan Hale Middle School teacher Shad M. Knutson — alleging that he groomed a teenage girl for an illicit, months-long relationship.
For that relationship, Knutson, who was a social studies teacher, now faces charges of child abuse, attempted first-degree sexual assault of a child and sexual assault using a communication device such as a cellphone.
Knutson, 34, now faces seven felony charges involving five alleged victims. All were 13 or 14 years old and students at Nathan Hale at the time the alleged abuse began.
He has pleaded not guilty to three charges and is expected to appear in court on the four new charges in the next few weeks. Knutson resigned from OPS in May after the district had placed him on leave.
The case has prompted questions about why OPS administrators did not contact police to report students' allegations against Knutson. State law requires people to report any suspected child abuse to police.
An attorney for OPS has defended district administrators' actions -– saying they were never advised by any student or parent that Knutson sexually assaulted or had sexual contact with a student.
The school board voted in May to retain its current policies for reporting allegations of sexual harassment and child abuse.
Knutson's attorney, Barb Thielen, declined to comment on the new allegations. Thielen did say, however, that she has credibility questions about the girls because they have given "different, inconsistent statements" to school officials and investigators.
Four of the cases allege that Knutson brushed up against girls, promised better grades if they would flash him or asked them to perform sex acts on him.
Prosecutors say the fifth and most serious case shows where Knutson was headed with what they call his "grooming."
Brenda Beadle, chief deputy Douglas County attorney, declined to detail that relationship but said it lasted for months and started with the same kind of sex-charged behavior.
"It fits a classic pattern of him grooming them and making them feel special," Beadle said.
In the other new allegation, a girl says Knutson asked her to show her breasts to him in return for a better grade in December 2009. He has been charged in that case with child abuse.
In the original three cases, prosecutors charged Knutson with third-degree sexual assault of a child, alleging that he touched the girls or made them touch him over clothing.
The allegations in those cases:
» In December 2008, Knutson touched a 13-year-old's vaginal area over her clothing and made lewd references to ways she could get a better grade.
» In November 2009, Knutson brushed his hands against the breasts of another 13-year-old girl. She said he also shouted at her in an empty hallway to turn around. When she did, she said, Knutson was standing there with his genitals exposed. She said he also asked her to perform a sex act on him and to flash him in exchange for a better grade.
» In October 2010, a 14-year-old girl told police that she went up to Knutson to ask a question while taking a test. Knutson took the girl's pen and placed it in front of his penis, telling her to "reach." He then touched her breasts and asked her not to tell anyone. He also said she could see his "private parts any time," a detective has testified.
Omaha police started an investigation into Knutson after the mother of the 14-year-old called state Child Protective Services on Oct. 22, 2010.
Beadle said investigators are still sorting out where the most serious case falls in the timeline of reports. They also are continuing to investigate whether any other former students were victimized, she said.
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