WHITE CLOUD, Mich. (WZZM) - A former Grant High School science teacher has pleaded guilty to having inappropriate sexual contact with a female student with whom she exchanged about 14,000 text messages during a four-week period last fall.
Erin Katharine MacDonald, 26, pleaded guilty to two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct with the female student. In exchange for the plea, four additional charges were dismissed. They included two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, a 15-year felony. MacDonald faces up to two years in prison when she is sentenced in Newaygo County Circuit Court on May 4.
MacDonald was hired as a science teacher in Aug. 2013. She resigned on Nov. 26, the same day she was interviewed by the Newaygo County Sheriff's Department.
Grant Public Schools Superintendent Jonathan Whan contacted the sheriff's department after the victim's father visited the high school principal with concerns about an inappropriate relationship between his daughter and the teacher.
The community was notified of the investigation once students returned from Thanksgiving break, Whan said.
"We shared information with the community, staff, students and parents to keep them informed of what had happened,'' Whan said. "And we started working as a community to move forward.''
According to court documents, the girl told her parents she was going to the movies with a friend the week before Thanksgiving. That evening, the girl's parents unexpectedly came across their daughter's car at a park and ride lot near the junction of M-37 and M-46. The father waited for his daughter to return to the car and watched as MacDonald dropped the girl off, according to a search warrant affidavit in 78th District Court in White Cloud.
Once home, the father took his daughter's cell phone and car keys. He then gave the cell phone to Grant High School Principal Dan Simon, signing a release that allowed the district to examine the cell phone.
"It was discovered there were approximately 14,000 texts between Erin MacDonald and (the victim) from Oct. 25 until Nov. 21,'' Newaygo County Sheriff's Deputy Phillip Green wrote in a search warrant affidavit. "Through briefly reviewing some of the texts, it would lead . . . to believe there was an inappropriate relationship.''
On Nov. 26, Green interviewed the girl about the relationship. She disclosed there was "an emotional and intimate relationship between the two which included sexual conduct in nature,'' the search warrant affidavit states.
Grant Public Schools sent out a news release in late November about possible inappropriate conduct on the part of one of its high school teachers.
"Due to the nature of the allegations, we immediately placed the teacher on paid administrative leave,'' Whan wrote in the news release. "During our investigation, the teacher came to us with a resignation, which was accepted.
"As a district, we work hard to provide our students with a safe and respectful learning environment focused on the academic needs of our students and to be fair and respectful to staff,'' the statement said. "We act immediately on these kinds of allegations as part of that commitment while providing due process for our staff.''