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Teacher charged with felony child seduction, obstruction remains employed weeks after arrest

Calls for a North West Hendricks School Board overhaul

LIZTON, Ind. (WISH) — A teacher and athletic coach charged with felony child seduction remained employed by the North West Hendricks School Corporation two weeks after his arrest, prompting calls for a school board overhaul from community members.

Tyler Bruce, 31, was arrested Jan. 28 following a monthslong investigation into allegations of inappropriate contact with a student.

Teacher charged with felony child seduction, obstruction remains employed weeks after arrest

Bruce is charged with child seduction, attempted child seduction and obstruction of justice — all felonies.

School board members voted in July 2019 to place the Tri-West High School teacher on paid administrative leave after the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office launched its investigation.

Bruce’s employment status was changed to unpaid suspension immediately following his arrest; a North West Hendricks School Corporation spokesperson said the district would move to terminate him.

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However, the termination process was stalled by Bruce’s decision to exercise his right to due process, administrators said Tuesday.

During a school board meeting Tuesday night, board members addressed community unrest over the matter by reading a passage of the Indiana code governing termination of public school teaching contracts.

“It could take 45 days [to fire Bruce],” said Donna Petraits, a spokesperson for the school district. “We’re talking about an individual that still has rights, that has not been convicted. Legally, we have to consider his rights as well.”

At least three community members criticized the district’s handling of accusations against Bruce during the public comment period of the board meeting.

Calls for board members to resign garnered applause and standing ovations from dozens of parents in attendance.

Cody Brunes, a Tri-West graduate who addressed board members during public comment, laid out various community concerns related to the Bruce scandal, including district accountability and spending. He also urged administrators to enact new policies protecting students from predatory behavior and whistleblower staff members from retaliation.

“It’s pretty alarming when [the district] can spend the money to pay a teacher that they originally said they would terminate once he was arrested,” Brunes said of Bruce’s nearly seven months on paid leave. “And now they’re saying he’s got to be found guilty? They just keep backtracking on [moving forward with termination]… They had enough grounds to terminate him months ago and they never did.”

Board members are “also very frustrated that they can’t be more transparent about the process,” Petraits said.

One man took the podium during the public comment period to speak in support of school administrators. He appreciated their concern and understood their hands were tied by state law, he said.

Some meeting attendees clapped; others heckled him. 

“You have failed this victim! How dare you?” another Lizton resident shouted at board members, referring to the female student who accused Bruce of touching her and coercing her into sending him explicit photos on Snapchat. 

Bruce has denied all allegations against him. 

A pretrial conference is scheduled for March 11. A trial is scheduled to begin April 22. 

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