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Ex-Shadle teacher pleads not guilty to sexual misconduct

Former Shadle teacher Ryan M. Murphy (pictured right) stands next to his attorney, Richrad Bechtolt (pictured left). Murphy pleaded not-guilt to charges of sexual misconduct with a minor in Spokane County Superior Court Wednesday morning.  (Jennifer Pignolet)
Former Shadle teacher Ryan M. Murphy (pictured right) stands next to his attorney, Richrad Bechtolt (pictured left). Murphy pleaded not-guilt to charges of sexual misconduct with a minor in Spokane County Superior Court Wednesday morning. (Jennifer Pignolet)

A former English teacher and girls track coach at Shadle Park High School pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of sexual misconduct with a former student.

Court documents filed on March 7 include allegations of sexual contact between 44-year-old Ryan M. Murphy and a female victim who was a minor at the time.

Spokane Police Department detectives believe he used his position as a teacher to coax the student into a significant sexual relationship, documents said, which began when the girl was 15 years old and he was 40.

Murphy was placed on administrative leave in early 2012 after Spokane Public Schools investigated complaints of a non-criminal nature made by a Shadle student in February that year that his behavior was inappropriate. The district allowed him to resign in August.

According to court documents, Murphy told the student he was having family problems and first expressed feelings toward her in 2009. Murphy tried to kiss her when they were alone in his Shadle classroom, the girl told detectives.

When the girl turned 16, Murphy began calling her and met her at a city park in the summer of 2010 and touched her inappropriately, court documents said.

When school started again, Murphy requested the student be transferred to his English class and they began interacting more, according to the documents. Murphy began sending her hundreds of text messages per week.

The relationship continued when he pressured the girl into consensual intercourse and sent her poems and letters, which are now aiding detectives with their investigation, according to the documents.

The girl did not report her interactions with Murphy until another student filed a complaint with Spokane Public Schools in February 2012.

The district’s investigation of Murphy concluded in March 2012 and the independent investigator determined Murphy violated district policy by invading student boundaries.

District documents detail numerous violations that include touching female students, sharing inappropriate and personal stories during classtime, giving his personal cell phone number to a female student, posting photos of students to his Facebook page and telling a female student she looked pretty.

The student in this case initially told the investigator Murphy was texting her inappropriately, but did not report their sexual relationship because she did not want him to get in trouble and “have his life ruined,” court documents said.

The girl reported the entirety of the relationship after she learned Murphy was driving by her family’s home while she was on Christmas break from college in 2012.

Despite attempts to make him stop texting her, including talking to other teachers about the issue, he continued to do so throughout the school’s investigation, according to the documents. From October 2010 through February 2012, Murphy is alleged to have sent 19,973 text messages to the student.

A previous complaint was filed against Murphy in 2005 after he allowed an unlicensed male student to drive his personal vehicle to the Spokane Skills Center to get it fixed.

The student got into an accident along the way and was ticketed by the Spokane Police Department. A small bottle of alcohol was found in the glove compartment of Murphy’s car while the student was driving it.

The district issued a written reprimand to Murphy regarding the incident, but the disciplinary action was reduced to a written warning in 2009.

The state’s Office of Professional Practices has yet to make a decision on Murphy’s teacher license, but district officials are aware of the Office’s cooperation with Spokane Police. The state’s Office makes decisions on revocation, discipline or suspension of a teacher’s license.

Murphy continues to live in the Spokane area and is no longer working in education, prosecutor Patrick Johnson said.

Because Murphy pleaded not guilty, the case is expected to go to trial in June at the earliest.

Detectives were unable to comment on the investigation because its ongoing, but because of Murphy’s lengthy history as a teacher, they’re concerned there may be other victims.

If anyone believes they were victimized, detectives would like them to contact police at (509) 242-TIPS.

Staff writer Jennifer Pignolet contributed to this report.