HENDRICKS COUNTY — Tri-West High School teacher and coach Tyler Bruce has been arrested on preliminary charges of child seduction and obstruction of justice.
The Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office launched its investigation into Tyler Bruce after receiving an anonymous tip on May 12 involving allegations of sexual misconduct with a student.
Bruce has been on paid administrative leave for seven months.
On July 9, the North West Hendricks School Corporation school board voted 5-0 to put Bruce on paid administrative leave.
The state has already started procedures to revoke his teaching license.
Thus far, Bruce has received more than $13,495 in compensation while on paid administrative leave.
Call 6 Investigates spoke with Stacy and Mark Lewis of North Salem after they filed a tort claim on August 6 which alleges Bruce requested their 17-year old daughter to be his aide during the 2018-2019 school year and asked to exercise together in the weight room at Tri-West High School.
Bruce also asked her daughter to participate in the track team where he coached her, according to Stacy Lewis.
Bruce exchanged inappropriate messages with Stacy's daughter late at night on Snapchat, and touched her under her clothing on several occasions, read the tort claim.
When the teen told Bruce she would not send him any more pictures, Bruce said if she didn't he would say she cheated on a math test, according to the tort claim.
"He said, 'you know, I'm the head football coach, and no one is ever going to believe you,'" Stacy Lewis said. "He used intimidation, threats, academics. It pushed far beyond the line."
The tort claim says in March 2019, someone made an anonymous call about Bruce working out alone with the teenage girl, but nothing happened for two months.
In May 2019, a school resource officer at Tri-West High School observed what he believed was an inappropriate interaction between Bruce and the teen and reported the incident, according to the tort claim.
Bruce’s attorney, Joshua Adair, of Hostetter & Associates, issued a statement to RTV6 in August.
“Coach Bruce completely denies the allegations,” read the statement. “We do not intend to try this case in the court of public opinion, and we have no further comment at this time.”
The federal government has also launched an investigation into whether the North West Hendricks School Corporation properly handles allegations of sexual harassment.
The United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights opened the Title IX investigation on Dec. 4, according to the agency’s website, for “sexual harassment” and “retaliation” within the school district.
Title IX is the 1972 federal civil rights law that bans sexual discrimination in education, best known for breaking down barriers for women in sports.
Title IX also requires K-12 schools to address reports of sexual misconduct, a process that is completely separate from the criminal process.
The complaint also alleged North West Hendricks retaliated against people for reporting sexual harassment or objecting to the corporation’s responses to sexual harassment reports.
The district has faced criticism for how it has handled sexual misconduct allegations involving teacher and coach Tyler Bruce.
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If a school district is found in violation of Title IX, typically the school reaches an agreement with the Office for Civil Rights in which they agree on ways to improve.
If schools do not comply with Title IX, they can risk losing federal funding.
The Office for Civil Rights will likely now collect interviews and analyze evidence from the district and from anyone who filed a complaint with their office.
They could find insufficient evidence that the district failed to comply with the law, or they could find that the district did not follow Title IX.
Call 6 Investigates reached out to the district’s communications consultant Donna Petraits for comment on the arrest. She said she had no comment to release at this time.
Jeff Gibson, an attorney representing the alleged victim and their family, released the following statement on behalf of the family:
We are encouraged that law enforcement along with the Hendricks County Prosecutor’s office are taking the necessary steps to hold Mr. Bruce accountable for his actions. As parents of students that attended Northwest Hendricks County School our number one concern is the safety of all students. Unfortunately, these criminal charges and the current federal investigation show the school system has a long way to go. We are hopeful that this is a first step in the right direction.
The family will have no further comment on this matter.