Sarah L. Gibson, a former seventh-grade English teacher at the New Richmond Middle School, pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of exposing a child to harmful material at her arraignment in St. Croix County District Court on Thursday, March 24.
The St. Croix County District Attorney’s Office originally filed the complaint against Gibson in district court on Jan. 20.
Following testimony by New Richmond police Detective Carlos De La Cruz at a preliminary hearing on Feb. 28, the court found probable cause that Gibson had committed the felony and she was scheduled for arraignment on March 24.
The complaint stems from several hand-written letters and a series of cell phone communications containing photos and videos between Gibson and a seventh-grade student. According to the complaint, as part of an investigation by the New Richmond Police Department., an Instagram search warrant revealed a total of 317 messages being exchanged between Gibson and the student between Oct. 23, 2021 and Nov. 11, 2021.
A pre-trial conference has been set for 9:30 a.m., Thursday, May 12.
The charge is a Class 1 felony. If convicted, Gibson could be fined up to $10,000 and face a prison term of up to three years and six months.
In a statement released by the School District of New Richmond on Jan. 21, Superintendent Patrick Olson acknowledged in addition to conducting its own investigation into the allegations against Gibson, the district has been cooperating with the District Attorney’s Office and its investigation.
The district initially placed Gibson on paid administrative leave but has since ended her employment with the district.
In his letter to parents and staff, Olson reiterated the district’s commitment to student safety,
“We would like to assure you that student safety is one of our top priorities, Olson wrote. “You put your trust in the SDNR to care for your children and keep them safe when they are at school, and we take this responsibility very seriously.”