School volunteer charged with sexual misconduct
The Methow Valley School District is directing a third-party investigation into a field trip after a volunteer chaperone on the outing was arrested and charged with sexual misconduct.
According to charging documents filed in Okanogan County Superior Court, Emily Binning-Wolak, 40, had sex with a 16-year-old Liberty Bell High School student while she chaperoned an Oct. 4 bicycling field trip organized by the school’s physical education teacher.
“I don’t know, until we’ve completed the investigation, what adjustments may need to take place or what action may result.”
Tom Venable, MVSD superintendent
Both Binning-Wolak and the male student told the investigating sheriff’s deputy that they had separated from the rest of the group and had consensual sex while on the bicycle outing, in the Sun Mountain area, according to court documents.
Binning-Wolak, who lives in Carlton, was arrested and booked into county jail Oct. 8, on charges of sexual misconduct with a minor and communication with a minor for immoral purposes. She was released the next day without needing to post bail, according to court records.
Adults who have sex with a 16- or 17-year-old in Washington state can be charged with sexual misconduct with a minor — a felony — if they are at least 60 months older and in a supervisory role.
The deputy’s report says Binning-Wolak sent nude photographs of herself to a different Liberty Bell student through Facebook Messenger, which led to a misdemeanor charge of communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
Binning-Wolak was arraigned Oct. 21 in Superior Court and pleaded not guilty. Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Henry Rawson ordered Binning-Wolak to have no contact with children outside of her immediate family and to stay off social media.
Binning-Wolak had supervised several field trips for Liberty Bell physical education teacher Michael Putnam, the deputy’s report said.
Liberty Bell principal Crosby Carpenter called law enforcement to report the incident on Oct. 7.
“Law enforcement responded quickly and have been investigating the incident,” Superintendent Tom Venable said Friday (Oct. 25) in a written statement. “The district has and continues to cooperate fully with the investigation.”
“The district is using a third party to conduct an investigation that includes a review of its policies, procedures, and the actions taken by personnel related to the alleged incident,” Venable said. “Adjustments to practices or recommended policy changes may result.”
The investigation is being conducted by Clear Risk Solutions, an insurance and risk management service firm based in Ephrata.
The investigation may lead to “corrective action involving personnel,” Venable said in a phone interview, but it was too early to say that with certainty.
“I don’t know, until we’ve completed the investigation, what adjustments may need to take place or what action may result,” he said.
Under district policy, the teacher organizing a field trip is responsible for finding enough adult chaperones to keep a student-to-adult ratio of no more than 10 to 1. School volunteers must complete a Washington State Patrol background check.
School officials did not say whether Binning-Wolak ever underwent a background check or whether she passed it. Officials also declined to say how many students and what grade levels participated in the Oct. 4 field trip, citing the ongoing investigation and a desire to protect students’ privacy.
Officials also decided not to send a notice informing all parents in the district about the incident, again citing student confidentiality.
“We … decide what we communicate, with whom, and when, driven by a deep level of care, compassion and commitment to maintaining confidentiality for those involved,” Venable said. “We appreciate the coordinated effort involving our school officials, law enforcement and the families of those involved with this situation.”