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Former Educators Charged for Sexually Explicit Texts about Students

23-Feb-2015

A former school principal and two former teachers have been charged with crimes for text messages they sent to each other. Investigators say the men exchanged text messages that described certain students in a sexual manner. The men are each charged in Woodward County with a single misdemeanor count of making obscene statements by electronic communication. Two of the men have already pleaded no contest; the third man's case is still pending.

Charged are three educators who worked at Sharon-Mutual High School and who resigned in 2013 after the allegations came to light:

  • Chris Syms, 37, who was the school's principal and football coach
  • Reece Lujan, 36, who was an art teacher, boys' basketball coach, and softball coach
  • Kevin Krows, 27, who was a teacher and girls' basketball coach

After charges were filed earlier this month, Syms and Lujan pleaded nolo contendere, or no contest. A "no contest" plea is not an admission of guilt, but it acknowledges that there is sufficient evidence for a jury to reach a conclusion of guilt if the case went to trial. For the purposes of sentencing, a no contest plea functions as a guilty plea. Syms and Lujan were each given a 10-year deferred sentence, which will allow them to avoid jail and criminal conviction. 

In a deferred sentence, the defendant is allowed to serve probation instead of jail. If he or she adheres to all of the conditions of probation, upon completion of the deferred sentence, the court records are updated to reflect a plea of "not guilty" and the case is dismissed. If the defendant violates probation, the prosecutor may file a motion to accelerate sentencing. If granted, the probation is revoked, the defendant is convicted, and he or she will likely be sentenced to jail or prison. 

As of this writing, Krows has neither pleaded guilty nor no contest. His case is pending.

Please note, the charges against the men do not reflect that they made lewd statements to students, but rather about them. This is one of those cases where it sounds like the men's actions made people angry and the district attorney's office drummed up whatever charges they could. 

The law under which the men were charged seems intended to prohibit obscene prank phone calls, but these men were not threatening or harassing others--merely making lewd observations among themselves.The Oklahoma law on obscenity, threats, or harassment by telephone or other electronic communication is found in 21 O.S. § 1172:

A. It shall be unlawful for a person who, by means of a telecommunication or other electronic communication device, willfully either: 

  1. Makes any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent; 
  2. Makes a telecommunication or other electronic communication with intent to terrify, intimidate or harass, or threaten to inflict injury or physical harm to any person or property of that person; 
  3. Makes a telecommunication or other electronic communication, whether or not conversation ensues, with intent to put the party called in fear of physical harm or death; 
  4. Makes a telecommunication or other electronic communication, whether or not conversation ensues, without disclosing the identity of the person making the call or communication and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number; 
  5. Knowingly permits any telecommunication or other electronic communication under the control of the person to be used for any purpose prohibited by this section; and  
  6. In conspiracy or concerted action with other persons, makes repeated calls or electronic communications or simultaneous calls or electronic communications solely to harass any person at the called number(s).

Every item in the above statute deals with the intended harassment of the recipient of the phone call; however, this law was used to prosecute men who were engaged in mutual conversation about people who were presumably never to find out about this objectification and therefore could not be threatened or harassed by the conversation. While their alleged acts were unprofessional and against public morals, it seems a bit of a stretch to call them criminal.



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