The accusation that teacher Terah Rawlings had an ongoing sexual relationship with a fifteen-year-old student is bad enough. But other circumstances push the alleged crime into even creepier territory. For one thing, Rawlings was employed at a religious school. For another, administrators are said to have known about the issue and done nothing to report it, including the church's senior pastor and the school's athletic director -- her uncle and father, respectively.
Back in December 2010, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office received a report about a possible sexual assault at Colorado Springs' Hilltop Baptist School, a spinoff of Hilltop Baptist Church that is no longer in operation. It closed last year because of a fall-off in attendance.
The church is a going concern, however, with its website featuring a peppy greeting from Pastor Franklin "Wayne" Knight, which reads in part, "One of the discouraging things about relocating or just visiting a different church is losing personal contact with old friends. We hope you'll find in us a friendly and spirit-filled atmosphere, where Jesus Christ is exalted."
After an investigation that included a series of interviews in February, the sheriff's office concluded that this reputed friendliness had gone much too far in the case of Rawlings, who's now 32, and a fifteen-year-old male student back in 2007. The Colorado Springs Gazette quotes a grand jury report as claiming that Rawlings first seduced the student in her parked car -- an act that led to more horizontal activities, in locations that included Pastor Knight's home. The relationship is said to have continued until the next summer -- at which point it was reportedly ended by the teenager, not by Rawlings.
The grand jury ultimately charged Rawlings with eight felonies -- four counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, another four counts of sex assault pertaining to a pattern of abuse -- and a bonus misdemeanor, obscenity-promotion.
She wasn't alone. Pastor Knight, her uncle, has been hit with a failure-to-report-child-abuse-or-neglect count, as well as an allegation of serving as an accessory to a crime. He's accused of shrugging off three separate reports about Rawlings's behavior rather than reporting them to police. Also charged with failure to report child abuse or neglect is Raymond "Allen" Knight -- the school's athletic director, the church's associate pastor and Rawlings's dad. And Jan Ocvirk, the school's principal, has two counts of failure to report child abuse or neglect of her own.
This church's congregation was told about the scandal during Wednesday night services -- and while Ken Bennett, its outreach director, declined the Gazzette's request to talk about the allegations, he insisted that attendees are "united and prayerful," adding, "We don't know the whole story. We trust our pastor. The Lord's will will be done."
If the accusations are accurate, the Lord's will had nothing to do with what went on. Look below to see booking photos of Rawlings and the other arrestees.
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More from our Education archive: "Teachers arrested for sex crimes: Should schools have to notify parents? Teachers union says no."
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