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— A former teacher at the Seventh-day Adventist Academy in Gentry admitted to engaging in sexual activity with a female student.

Thomas Hayden McDonald pleaded guilty Monday to sexual assault in the second degree, a class B felony. His plea came under an agreement attorney John May reached with Chief Deputy Prosecutor Stuart Cearley.

McDonald was placed on five-years' state-supervised probation and given 90 days in the Benton County Jail, but the time was suspended.

McDonald was arrested Dec. 4, 2008.

According to an affidavit of probable cause in the case, Gentry police officer Rick Lane received a sexual-assault complaint from academy Vice Principal Toakase Vunileva, who reported a female student had approached a staff member about another student who had been sexually involved with a teacher. The student identified the teacher as McDonald, according to court documents.

When questioned by Lane, McDonald said he and the student had been text-messaging each other, and the messages got more personal as time went along, the affidavit states. McDonald claimed the girl sent him some pictures of her wearing a hoodie and thong with her back facing the camera, court documents state. McDonald claimed that on Nov. 25, he and the girl went to his office for her to take a test. McDonald said inappropriate actions occurred in the office, the affidavit reflects. McDonald told the officer that kissing and touching had occurred, but there was no sexual intercourse, according to court documents.

The girl, who was interviewed at the Children's Advocacy Center of Benton County, described engaging in sexual contact with McDonald, the affidavit states.

Circuit Judge Robin Green accepted the plea agreement and McDonald's guilty plea.

Besides probation and jail time, McDonald will be required to register as a sex offender. He also must enroll in and complete sex-offender treatment at Ozark Guidance in Springdale.

McDonald was ordered not to have any contact with minors. He also must pay $1,170 in court-associated costs.

News, Pages 11 on 09/16/2009

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