PITTSBURGH - A Plum Senior High School science teacher accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a female student was arrested Wednesday.
According to the Plum Borough Police Department, the principal contacted the school resource officer on Jan. 29 after learning of a suspected relationship between a teacher and student.
Police then conducted their own independent investigation into the allegations and determined 38-year-old Jason Edward Cooper was involved in a sexual relationship with a female student.
A criminal complaint stated that Cooper and the senior student began communicating via Twitter in November.
Police said the relationship involved inappropriate conduct occurring at the school, as well as Cooper’s residence.
The student told police that she first had sex with Cooper after he moved into an apartment in Monroeville and that she "is still engaged in a sexual relationship with Jason Cooper and continues to spend the night at his apartment approximately 1-2 times per week,” according to the complaint.
On Tuesday, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office was contacted and made aware of the investigation.
Cooper was then charged with one count each of institutional sexual assault, corruption of minors and furnishing alcohol to a minor – charges his attorney plans to fight.
"That statute was created to bridge the gap between inappropriate relationships between teachers and women and men who are 16 or 17 of age,” said Michael DeRiso, Cooper’s attorney.
Cooper was arraigned on Wednesday, where bond was set at $25,000 at 10 percent. He was then taken to the Allegheny County Jail but is currently out on bail.
“I wouldn't have expected if from him, that's for sure. I'm not sure what the actual story is, but I hope it's not true,” said Cooper’s former student Alyssa Pepper.
Pepper’s brother was also surprised by Cooper’s alleged inappropriate student-teacher relationship.
“He'd take the time to actually talk to us and talk about our grades and see how we can improve. A better class than any of the other ones I took,” said Zachary Pepper.
During the course of the investigation, police said additional information regarding a second inappropriate student-teacher relationship was uncovered that is not related to this one. As a result, authorities said a second investigation has been initiated and is currently ongoing.
Plum Borough School District Superintendent Dr. Timothy S. Glasspool issued the following statement Wednesday evening:
"The Plum Borough Police Department, in cooperation with the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, has filed charges against a Plum Senior High School teacher for an inappropriate student relationship. I credit school administration with a comprehensive and discrete inquiry that led to a quality report for the Plum Police Department to begin their criminal investigation.
"The teacher was suspended from employment during our investigation. The police department moved very quickly to bring this matter toward resolution.
"As this is now a criminal prosecution and ongoing school and police investigation, we will not comment further.
"As a result of this investigation, a second unrelated allegation of an inappropriate student-teacher relationship came to light. The district and police department are currently investigating this second allegation. The district must afford the student and teacher anonymity during this investigation. Until the police determine the salient facts, we are unable to provide additional information.
"The Plum Borough School District has made counselors, psychologists, and other support professionals available for our students and staff during this difficult time. Thank you."