Norris teacher’s alleged inappropriate relationship was first reported weeks earlier
School district says rumors about teacher-student relationship “appeared unfounded” at the time
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - In a recently filed search warrant, a Lancaster County Sheriff’s deputy wrote that the relationship between a former Norris teacher and a student was reported to school administration in April and no investigation was done. However, the school district says they did investigate but said the rumors “appeared unfounded” at the time.
The search warrant of 23-year-old Lillie Bowman’s apartment provides more detail into the investigation LSO started May 14, after a parent of a Norris student and a friend of Bowman’s told police they believed Bowman was in a sexual relationship with a teenage Norris student. Bowman was arrested on suspicion of sexual abuse of a student last week.
An arrest affidavit alleges investigators learned Bowman was in a relationship with a 17-year-old student and the two had had sex approximately ten times. According to the search warrant, in an interview with the 17-year-old, he told investigators the “dating relationship” began in March and confirmed it was sexual.
The search warrant reports investigator Joanna Dimas conducted several interviews with parents of Norris High School students and other community members.
In one interview, Dimas reports she was told by a parent that her student reported the relationship to the Norris High School principal on April 6, after which the student was told to stop speaking about it or they would be suspended. The report says “no investigation was made by the school administration and no report was made to the abuse/neglect hotline.” In a statement to 10/11, Superintendent Brian Maschmann said a high school administrator did investigate the report by speaking to the teacher and student, who denied the rumor.
10/11 NOW heard concerns about the administration’s handling of this situation from multiple people. In response to those concerns and the information from the search warrant, the school district’s superintendent released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
“Norris School District received word on Thursday, April 6 that rumors were circulating about an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and student. A high school administrator immediately investigated this rumor. In her investigation, the administrator separately interviewed the teacher and student. At that time, both parties stated that the rumor was not true. The administrator also interviewed the student who allegedly heard the rumor and another student that was reported to be spreading the rumor. One of those students admitted to hearing the rumor off campus and spreading the message to other students. The administrator then called the student’s mom to relay the conversation and that the accusation appeared unfounded. That same day, the school district reported the rumor and investigation to the School Resource Officer.”
In a phone call with Lancaster County Chief Deputy Ben Houchin, he confirmed the school resource officer, Deputy Jordan Funk, received an email about the rumor on April 6. Houchin said Funk was on vacation at the time and saw the email about a week later when she got back. He said because the rumor was found not to be legitimate, there was no further action Funk needed to take. Houchin said investigators weren’t aware of the email until after the search warrant on Bowman’s apartment was done.
Houchin said he’s not sure what the school knew. He said if they were aware of criminal activity it should have been reported.
“At the end of the day, the right thing was done and the investigation was very successful,” Houchin said.
According to the documents, Investigator Dimas was told by multiple people that Bowman was seen holding hands, riding in a vehicle with and going out to lunch with the 17-year-old. Another parent told police Bowman was seen wearing the teen’s jacket and “huddled up talking” to him when she was supposed to be with other students. Another interviewee told investigators Bowman was seen holding hands with the student, had been seen hugging him and crying about “missing him.”
The documents also report Bowman told a friend of hers about the relationship. The friend told investigators she told Bowman the relationship was inappropriate multiple times.
In a search of Bowman’s apartment, deputies seized condoms and condom wrappers, both used and new, bedding, paper towels, toilet paper, Kleenex and electronics.
Bowman taught 9th and 10th grade English for Norris High School and was involved with the school trap team, but has since been fired.
Bowman is out of jail after paying ten percent of her $50,000 bond. She’s due back in court on July 6.
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