By Hannah Siepmann

After two months of students wondering about the mysterious disappearance of interim Principal Sean Burke, the true reason behind his absence has been made public. Burke left the high school administration during Winter Break, and the students were told that it was due to “minor medical reasons,” but public police forms show that during that time Burke was actually under police investigation.

Recently a woman whose name has not yet been released made allegations that Burke had had sexual contact with her during her sophomore year at Mac High, 20 years ago. While Burke denied all sexual aspects of the relationship, the woman alleged that the two had sexual contact multiple times over the course of a few months when she was 16 and he was a new teacher in his late 20s. She disclosed this information to police in late fall, prompting a full investigation by the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission and local police.

According to the News Register, in police reports the woman said that she had had a troubled childhood and adolescence, and connected with Burke, who she saw as a resource and someone with whom she could discuss her family problems.

If the woman had come forward and disclosed this information immediately after the alleged incident, Burke could have been charged with many charges including sexual abuse in the second and third degrees because the alleged victim was underage, so any sexual contact would legally be considered statutory rape.

However, the woman did not report the incidents to police during the late 90s when they allegedly occurred because she felt at fault for the relationship. She finally decided to bring it to the police’s attention now in order to protect her own young children from similar incidents.

Despite these allegations that arose without warning 20 years after the alleged incidents, Burke has had a successful and meaningful career as a teacher and administrator for McMinnville High School, and many students were upset when they heard of the interim principal’s resignation. The recent investigation has been devastating for his career and personal life, forcing him to resign as principal in order to not bring attention to what allegedly happened two decades ago.

Due to the time that has elapsed, all criminal charges for Burke have been dropped because the statute of limitations has run out, so the McMinnville police have stopped the investigation and there is no longer a possibility of Burke being charged with any more criminal charges. However, in the future the woman may choose to start a civil litigation, which would seek monetary payment instead of potential time in prison.

The investigation is still being carried out by the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, and the final legal status of the investigation is yet to be official.