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Former St. George school teacher pleas no contest, accused of molesting at least 5 students

Southern Utah

ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) – A former St. George school teacher, Curtis William Payne, is facing 60 years to life in prison after pleading no contest August 5 to sexually abusing at least five students.

The 60-year-old was arrested in January of 2018 and eventually charged with 15 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

ABC4’s Katie Karalis spoke with experts to learn how students and parents can identify predators in the classroom. They say sexual abuse can happen anywhere at any time including in school with other children around.

“Adults will put themselves in positions where they can have one-on-one time with children,” said Kristy Pike, director of the Washington County Children’s Justice Center.

According to court documents, victims alleged Payne touched them inappropriately at his desk or during movies shown in the classroom.

“We teach our kids ‘stranger danger,’ but we’re not teaching them to stay safe among the people that we know and the people that we trust,” added Pike.

Eighty-four percent of the children interviewed at the Washington County Children’s Justice Center in 2018 claimed they knew their alleged perpetrator, according to the director.

Predatory teachers typically groom students, building a sense of trust and emotional connection with them, and they may give them extra help after class, communicate through text or social media, or become friends with their parents.

Payne is scheduled to appear in court for sentencing Sept. 17.

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