JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A school teacher pleaded guilty Wednesday to a charge of second-degree child endangerment after police say he failed to report a student he appeared to be romantically involved with was suicidal.
The investigation began on May 9, when a man reported to Jonesboro police that his 14-year-old was in "some sort of romantic relationship with her math teacher," later identified as 44-year-old David Brent Yates.
The father said he found an "odd message" on his daughter's phone. When he looked further, he found conversations between the girl and Yates that appeared to be of a romantic nature.
The man met with administrators at Westside School District, where Yates was employed as a math teacher, and told them what he had found. The district suspended Yates with pay while they investigated the matter, according to the initial incident report.
The father gave his daughter's cellphone to Jonesboro police for a forensic examination.
Detective Brandon King reported he found a series of messages between the teenage victim and Yates dating back to January 2017.
"The two continually talked romantically and often spoke of being in love with each other and of leaving to go to Florida together when the victim graduates high school," King stated. "Also in the messages, the victim disclosed to Yates that she had suicidal ideation."
The father told the detective that no one ever notified him of his daughter's suicidal thoughts.
Upon discovering this he took her for a screening and she was admitted for treatment.
On Wednesday, June 28, Yates appeared before Craighead County District Court Judge David Boling and entered a guilty plea to second-degree endangering the welfare of a minor for not reporting the girl's suicidal threats.
A negotiated plea was reached and the judge sentenced Yates to 180 days in jail with 178 days suspended. He also ordered Yates to pay all court costs and a fine of $425.
The Westside School District's website no longer lists Yates as being employed.
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