North Dakota’s Reigning ‘Teacher of the Year’ Suspended After Sex Crime Allegations
Aaron Knodel, North Dakota's 2014 Teacher of the Year, was suspended without pay Monday night in the wake of allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old in 2009. The suspension was decided in a vote by the West Fargo School Board.
Knodel is accused of having sexual contact with a female student on a number of occasions five years ago -- in a classroom, at Knodel's home, and in the girl's car.
The English, speech and debate teacher had been on a paid suspension since February of this year, when West Fargo High School, where he taught, first learned of the case against him. The suspension became unpaid after criminal charges were filed in court on Friday.
Knodel's attorney, Robert Hoy, says his client is not guilty and has passed a lie detector test to that effect.
In addition to teaching, Knodel started a student congress and trivia team at the school and also served as the West Fargo Education Association's lead negotiator. This all contributed to his appointment by the North Dakota teacher's union as Teacher of the Year.
If convicted on five counts of felony corruption or solicitation of a minor, Knodel faces up to 35 years behind bars.