UPDATE: Former sex offender steps down from volunteer role insid - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATE: Former sex offender steps down from volunteer role inside eastern Iowa schools

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UPDATE (April 30, 4 p.m.): An Iowa man who was once registered as a sex offender has stepped down from his volunteer role with a student spelling club in eastern Iowa.

According to meeting meetings from the April 28 Mid-Prairie Community School District special board meeting, Trent Yoder made a formal announcement that he will not volunteer during any school events for the remainder of the 2017-2018 school year. 

Yoder had been involved with the Kalona Spelling Club, following a 1998 conviction of exploitation of a minor. He did clarify that the club did not have any direct ties to the school district, according to the meeting minutes.

Read more about Yoder's prior conviction below.


UPDATE (April 27, 10 p.m.):

An Iowa school district is facing community backlash after a convicted sex offender is discovered to be volunteering inside schools.

Trent Yoder was convicted in 1998 after pleading guilty to exploitation of a minor. He recorded a high school student changing in a restroom of an Anita elementary school, where he worked as a teacher.

Yoder was sentenced to ten years in prison but had his sentence shortened to six weeks. He was put on probation and required to register as a sex offender. Iowa law requires a minimum of ten years on the registry list. He was removed from it in 2008.

Yoder has been coaching a spelling bee program at the Mid-Prairie School District where his kids attend school. He does so as a volunteer, not as a district employee, and has been since 2015 when Mid-Prairie Superintendent, Mark Schneider, granted him special permission to do so.

In a lengthy statement, Schneider said Yoder's request was first denied because of his record but that Yoder appealed. Schneider said he reconsidered his decision after receiving multiple character letters on Yoder's behalf. The letters came from a pastor at Yoder's church, a retired long-time Mid-Prairie elementary teacher, an Iowa District Court Judge, and a University of Iowa professor.

Schneider and Yoder could not be reached for an interview on Friday.

Following the backlash, Schneider included in his statement that the spelling club was not sponsored or sanctioned by the district and that Yoder was no longer allowed to use the district's facilities for the club activity.

Nicky Bauerkemper said she found out about Yoder's volunteering after seeing his name and photo in a Kalona newspaper.

"I was shocked in the worst way," she said.

In 1998, Baukerkemper said she was a 5th grader at the school where Yoder was a 6th-grade teacher. It's where she took part in a similar spelling program with Yoder.

"He would occasionally pull me or other kids out of class so we could go to a different room and practice our spelling word," she said.

While Bauerkemper said she was not officially part of Yoder's previous conviction, she and other girls did go through school counseling after contact with him.

"Every kid loved him. He was very charismatic and personable and so I didn't even give it a thought when he asked me to do him a special favor and try on this t-shirt for his niece in the staff bathroom. I never mentioned to it any else and never really thought about it until later until the video camera was found of another girl," she said.

Bauerkemper and other former students say they don't believe Yoder should be allowed to volunteer.

"It's just operating with an abundance of caution which I think is completely appropriate because we can't expect children to keep themselves free from sexual abuse. Other people need to be looking out for them," she said.

The Mid-Prairie School Board is holding a special meeting on Saturday, April 28th, at 8 a.m. That meeting is open to the public and will take place at the district's central administration office in Wellman.

Schneider's statement can be read in full below.


(PREVIOUS STORY) WELLMAN, Iowa (AP) - A former Iowa teacher purged from the state's sex offender list has been allowed to volunteer at an eastern Iowa school district.

The Des Moines Register reports that Trent Yoder has been helping out in the Mid-Prairie schools district, which is based in Wellman. The district granted him special permission to volunteer, after receiving letters of support.

Superintendent Mark Schneider says he has informed school principals that Yoder must be with another adult at all times.

Yoder had pleaded guilty to exploiting a minor at an Anita school by videotaping a high school athlete changing her clothes in 1998. Court records say he served a few weeks behind bars and then four years of probation. He was removed from the sex offender registry after 10 years.

He told the Register that he hates that he "caused so much pain to that community."

You can read Schneider's full statement here: 

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