Salt Lake City school board looks to fill vacancy after member arrested for sexual exploitation of minor

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Salt Lake City School Board is looking to fill a vacancy after one of their members was arrested for sexual exploitation of a minor.

Get Utah’s latest news sent to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to the free ABC4 daily newsletter.

Joél-Léhi Organista, who presided over Precinct 1 of the Salt Lake City School District, was arrested on multiple counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and one additional charge of object rape of a child.

Organista submitted his resignation to the school board Friday.

According to a release from the school board, applicants must meet the following criteria in order to be considered for the position:

  • Must have lived within Precinct 1 boundaries (precinct map can be found here) for at least one year, and
  • Must certify that they are eligible to hold elected office, including: 
    • Certifying that they have never been convicted of a felony, unless the individual’s right to hold office is restored in accordance with Utah Code §20A-2-101.5.
    • Certifying that they have never been convicted of a grievous sexual offense against a child, as defined in Utah Code §76-1-601(6). 

A news release noted that all applicants will be subject to a background check.

The school board says they expect to begin interviewing potential candidates by June 29, 2021, at 6:30 p.m.

The newly-selected board member will then be sworn no later than June 29, 2021. That board member will then serve a 1.5 year term from the time of being sworn in until Dec. 31, 2022.

Those interested in the position area asked to fill out the online application and email it to by 5 p.m. on June 21, 2021.

The board asks that all email’s have the subject line “Application for Precinct 1”.

Anyone with questions about the application process is asked to contact the Superintendent’s office at (801) 578-8351.

The Salt Lake City School Board held a press conference to address allegations against Organista on June 3. In a prepared statement, the board said they “condemn” the actions of Organista.

“I don’t know where to start,” said board member Mohamed Bayd, fighting off tears during the press conference. “As a parent, as a new elected board member, my heart is shattered to pieces.”

According to information from police reports, Organista has admitted to downloading and viewing child pornography. Additionally, during a search of his electronic devices, arresting officers located a Snapchat on Organista’s iPhone that showed explicit conversations with children identified between the ages of 12 to 17.

The probable cause statement says that in the Snapchat conversations, Organista would ask the children for sexual photographs and to commit sexual acts on video chats. Saved images on the Snapchat also showed clear examples of child pornography, according to the statement.

The police report continued with officers noting “Organista has access to young children in his current position of trust involving grades K-12. Joel has shown that, through electronic means, he frequently meets children online, solicits nude photographs from them, and has private online video conversations with them.”

“To engage in any such conduct or to exploit or endanger any child is indefensible,” board president Melissa Ford said in the statement.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Utah Coronavirus

More Coronavirus Updates


More In Focus

Justice Files

More Justice Files