Wichita teacher arrested for suspicion of sex exploitation of a child

Steve Thompson (Courtesy: Sedgwick Co. Sheriff's Dept.)

WICHITA, Kansas – Wichita teacher Steve Thompson was arrested Friday in Wichita after a two-year investigation.

“He is suspended with pay pending the outcome of the investigation,” said USD 259 spokeswoman Susan Arensman.

Garden City police chief James Hawkins confirmed the arrest in a statement.

On September 29, 2013 an investigation was initiated into the suspect, Steve Thompson (62) formally of Garden City Kansas after apparent child pornography was located on his work computer on the campus of the Garden City Community College,” the statement says. “On January 7, 2016 an arrest warrant was obtained and sent to the Wichita Kansas Police Department in an attempt to locate Thompson who now resides in Wichita Kansas. He was arrested on January 8, 2016 by the Wichita Police Department.”

Thompson could now face three charges of sexual exploitation of a child. Police say it’s still an active investigation.

Thompson, even though he has been under investigation for two years, was still able to be hired as a teacher. KSN checked, and there is no system in place that makes police share investigations with schools.

Some lawmakers said they would be willing to consider a system where cops have to alert schools, if a potential employee is being investigated for child exploitation.

“I do think that it would be helpful though, if there has been an investigation, for that to be required to be part of the background information that is provided when people are interviewed,”said Representative Janice Pauls, R-Hutchinson. “But also… you don’t want to keep someone from ever being able to work anywhere when there has been an investigation and no finding. But at the same time, you have to protect children.”

Pauls calls it a balancing act but is interested in bringing up the idea.

Arensman confirms Thompson is a math teacher at Northeast High Magnet. She also says there was nothing in Thompson’s background check that would have kept him from being hired.

Other lawmakers say keeping kids safe should continue to be a priority.

“But you have to balance that desire for public safety with certain things. That these are just accusations. And at what point does an accusation reach a level that you should take action that would affect someone’s job?” asks Representative Jim Ward, D-Wichita. Still, Ward says lawmakers may consider the idea of an information exchange from police to schools when child safety could be a concern. “We should consider taking steps to slow down the (hiring) process when there is an active investigation.”

Wichita police had no comment on the story, saying this is a case for Garden City Police. Garden City says Thompson could face three counts of exploitation of a child.

The investigation continues.

Today, KSN reached out to the Garden City Community College and the Finney County Attorney for answers but both said that because it’s an ongoing investigation, neither could comment on-camera or answer our questions.

We wanted to know why it was more than two years from the initial report before an arrest was made.

“The forensic portion of the investigation takes quite some time as far as obtaining additional search warrants on storage devices,” said Sgt. Andrew Roush with the Garden City Police Department.

Garden City Community College would not comment on specifics regarding Thompson, only releasing a statement that said he resigned from the college on February 28, 2014.

KSN wanted to know if the college knew about the initial investigation and whether they provided any information to potential employers about an investigation but the legal department told us they could not comment further.

Thompson posted bond in Wichita and is expected in Finney County Court Thursday morning.

 

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