For a second time this year, a small community near Springfield, MO, was shocked to learn the details surrounding a case of abuse and sexual misconduct, this time at the hands of a high school teacher.
Sexual Abuse Allegations in Christian County
In late January 2023, a teacher at Nixa High School in Nixa, MO, was charged with multiple crimes for misconduct relating to one of her students.
According to preliminary court documents, prosecutors for Christian County have charged the teacher, 26-year-old Lena Stewart, with the following crimes:
- Second-degree statutory rape
- Sexual misconduct with a minor
- First-degree sexual misconduct
The allegations came to light in December, just a few days before schools closed for the winter vacation.
In the following weeks, investigators with the Christian County Sheriff’s Office launched a probe into the claims against Stewart. The teacher was subsequently placed on administrative leave by Nixa Public Schools.
According to police filings, the investigation began on December 7. Court records revealed that Stewart taught woodworking and agricultural science classes. She had been employed by Nixa Public Schools since 2021 and also helped lead the high school’s FFA.
Court records say that a 16-year-old male student admitted to having a sexual relationship with Stewart. According to a statement made to investigators, the sexual misconduct began in October 2022.
According to police reports, the 16-year-old student’s parents filed a complaint because they were concerned he was spending too much time with Stewart.
An investigator questioned Stewart about private communications with students, and she admitted to sending and receiving occasional private messages. Although police searched her phone, they initially could not locate any messages or evidence of communication between her and the alleged victim.
According to the report, the police were told by Stewart that her phone automatically deletes text messages. She also told police that she and the alleged victim shared a friendly relationship, but it never became physical.
Further investigation led police to a secret Instagram account that Stewart used to communicate with the student, and an arrest order was made.
In a probable cause statement filed by Christian County investigators, the 16-year-old student told police he and Stewart were indeed involved in a sexual relationship. According to the student, Stewart would pick him up in her car and drive to a secluded area, where they would engage in sexual acts.
The minor said that he was uncomfortable with the arrangement but felt pressured to continue because he received good grades in the class.
Court records show the teacher was arrested on January 22 and held on $25,000 bail at the Christian County Jail. Stewart is currently out on bond while she awaits trial.
Nixa Public Schools says she will remain on administrative leave pending the case’s outcome.
Sex Crimes in Missouri
In Missouri, sex crimes are a broad category of criminal offenses. They generally involve nonconsensual acts such as intercourse, penetration, fondling, and sexually motivated behaviors.
The nature of physical contact determines the severity of a sex crime. While some behaviors may be considered less offensive, such as harassment or groping, others can be tried as violent felonies, resulting in severe legal consequences that may include prison time.
Victims of sexual assault are protected under Missouri law, and the courts are required to hold assailants accountable for their actions. Whenever sex crimes occur within a workplace, school or public accommodation setting, a civil lawsuit may also be appropriate and in such cases, oftentimes third parties who contributed to or permitted the abuse or exploitation to occur can be held accountable as well.
Sexual Assault Lawsuit Attorneys
Privette Law Office represents sexual abuse and assault victims throughout Southern Missouri. If you’ve suffered sexual abuse or exploitation at work or school, contact our office today to speak to a sexual assault injury lawyer. Our compassionate attorneys are dedicated to fighting for your rights.