LIZTON, Ind. (WISH) — A central Indiana public school teacher charged with felony child seduction was suspended without pay and given preliminary notice of termination following his arrest Tuesday night, district officials announced Wednesday.
Tyler Bruce, 31, a math teacher and athletic coach at Tri-West High School in Lizton, faces three felony counts stemming from an 8-month investigation into allegations of inappropriate contact with a student: child seduction, attempted child seduction and obstruction of justice.
He was released Wednesday from the Hendricks County Jail after posting $500 cash bond, according to online court records.
Bruce and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
Prior to his suspension, Bruce had been on paid administrative leave since July 2019, when North West Hendricks School Corporation board members voted to reject then-superintendent Michael Springer’s recommendation to terminate him.
Parents and anonymous tipsters had shared concerns with administrators about Bruce’s contact with a female student as early as Feb. 2019, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by News 8.
Multiple sources reported Bruce and the girl were “possibly engaged in an inappropriate relationship” and “worked out” together in a school weight room with the door locked, the document states.
Although then-principal Adam Benner addressed the concerns during a meeting in March 2019, the district did not immediately contact the girl’s parents or notify the Department of Child Services (DCS), charging documents allege.
The Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office formally launched a criminal investigation in May 2019, after an anonymous source reported Bruce’s wife had caught him messaging the girl on Snapchat.
During forensic interviews in May and July 2019, the girl stated Bruce had touched her over and under her clothing; asked him to send her naked pictures with her face cropped out; and told her she “blue balled” him when she declined to visit him at his home while his wife was out of town for Mother’s Day weekend.
Benner resigned from his post as Tri-West principal in June 2019, weeks after authorities began investigating the allegations against Bruce.
Springer resigned in Oct. 2019 amid controversy over the district’s handling of its internal investigation.
Lizton residents angrily confronted administrators about the matter during school board meetings as tensions threatened to divide the community.
However, the criminal investigation appeared to stall, failing to result in charges for months.
Initial data downloads had recovered minimal evidence from Bruce’s cell phone, according to the affidavit.
Authorities obtained a warrant to search the phone in July 2019; the phone was missing its SIM card when Bruce turned it over to the sheriff’s office, the affidavit states.
No relevant evidence was found stored in Bruce’s Apple iCloud or Snapchat accounts, despite preservation orders issued in August.
Finally, on Jan. 23, a “software update” allowed detectives to access a more comprehensive forensic download of Bruce’s phone, according to the affidavit.
Additional Snapchat data was recovered, including a “contact trail” indicating Bruce had sent content to the girl using the app, investigators said.
Bruce was arrested at his home five days later.
Benner was charged with failure to report, a misdemeanor, according to an affidavit filed Wednesday.
Benner and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
Jeff Gibson, a Carmel-based attorney representing the alleged victim, emailed a statement to News 8 on behalf of the girl’s family:
“We are encouraged that law enforcement, along with the Hendricks County Prosecutor’s Office, are taking the necessary steps to hold Mr. Bruce and Mr. Benner accountable for their actions. As parents of students that attend North West Hendricks schools, our number one concern is the safety of all students. Unfortunately, these criminal charges and the current investigation [led by the U.S. Department of Education] show the school system has a long way to go. We are hopeful that this is a first step in the right direction.”
Donna Petraits, a spokesperson for the North West Hendricks School Corporation, emailed a statement to News 8 addressing the district’s action in response to Bruce’s arrest:
“The North West Hendricks School Corporation and the Board of Trustees are grateful to the Hendricks County Sheriff and the Department of Child Protective Services for their efforts in investigating the charges against Tyler Bruce. Their thorough investigation has provided evidence that was previously unavailable and inaccessible to the board. The board finds this conduct egregious and contrary to everything the school district stands for. Based on this new information, the school administration has changed Mr. Bruce’s status to an unpaid suspension effective immediately and has given preliminary notice to Mr. Bruce that his contract will be canceled and employment terminated in accordance with I.C. 20-28-7.5. The status of Mr. Bruce’s teacher licensure is a separate issue that is handled by the Indiana Department of Education. This has created great division in our small community and the school board joins the community in its desire for a swift resolution to this matter. In the meantime, the board and administration are committed to restoring trust, aggressively reviewing policies and procedures and seeking remedies to bring harmony back to our community. The safety and security of our students is our foremost responsibility. We look forward to strengthening our community partnerships to protect them while providing the best possible education.”