By JONATHAN ZWEYGARDT
A former para-education professional at Hays High School has been bound over for trial for attempted unlawful sexual relations with a student.
Taylor Rogers, who is over the age of 18, is accused of sending explicit images and offering to perform a sexual act on the 17-year-old victim over a social media app.
After hearing testimony Thursday in Ellis County District Court, Magistrate Judge Richard Flax found there was enough evidence to move forward with the trial against Rogers.
She began serving as a para at Hays High in the fall of 2017 while attending college, according to testimony Thursday from Hays Middle School Principal Tom Albers. Albers served as assistant principal at Hays High School at the time of the incident.
Albers said the administration was made aware in January of inappropriate images being shared between Rogers and a 17-year-old Hays High student in November and December of 2017 while Rogers worked at Hays High.
Rogers served as a para in charge of one of the Guided Personal Study classes at Hays High during the first semester of the school year. Her employment was terminated in January after the incident came to light.
Albers said he and Principal Martin Straub talked with Rogers on Jan. 17 about the incident and said she was very cooperative, apologetic and said she had an error in judgement.
He also said she acknowledged the incident saying, “I know” and “I’m sorry,” several times during their conversation.
Albers, as an educator, is required to report suspected abuse, so he reached out to the Hays Police Department.
Investigator Jeff Ridgway responded to the school to begin the investigation.
Ridgway testified Thursday he interviewed Rogers and read her her Miranda warning but did not place Rogers under arrest.
Rogers, according to Ridgway, acknowledged she sent nude photos and offered to perform the act. She also allowed Ridgway to exam her phone at the Law Enforcement Center.
Ridgway said a nude photo was discovered on the phone, but it was not the picture allegedly sent to the victim. The photo was not located, he testified.
Albers said the paras of the GPS program are in charge of the classroom during that period and have the ability to discipline a student just like a teacher in the district. Albers said the paras do not have official training, but they did talk about social and relationships with students with the lead para.
He said they did not have any issue with Rogers until the incident was reported.
The victim testified Thursday that he and another student at Hays High School were in the GPS period that Rogers oversaw.
They asked Rogers for her Snapchat ID in an effort to start a streak. The victim said at first Rogers as hesitant but did give them the ID.
A Snapstreak, according to Snapchat, occurs when a user and a friend have “snapped (not chatted) each other within 24 hours for more than three consecutive days.”
The victim also testified that he had a friendly relationship with Rogers and thought of her as a friend but said he believed she could discipline him in the classroom.
The victim said he received a topless photo of Rogers and a picture of her naked buttock on separate dates in November and December. He also received video messages from Rogers, over the Christmas break asking him to meet her at a park where she would perform the act.
He said at first he didn’t take the offer seriously and said he never asked her to have sexual contact with him.
The victim did have class with Rogers after she allegedly sent the photos and they continued communicating through Snapchat. But he cut all contact with Rogers after receiving the video messages.
The victim testified he did not tell any adults or school staff members about the messages he received from Rogers and that he didn’t know who told school staff.
Ellis County Attorney Tom Drees said in his closing arguments that his office believes it showed there was an attempt to commit a crime and that Rogers, who was a paid employee of the school district, attempted to solicit the victim.
Judge Flax agreed with Drees and bound Rogers over for trial on the charge of attempted unlawful sexual relations.
In Kansas, it is illegal for a teacher or a person of authority to engage in any consensual sexual relations with a student even if the student is old enough to consent.
A formal arraignment will be scheduled for a later date.