Seattle teacher with Renton ties enters plea to sexual misconduct

A former teacher in the Kent and Renton school districts pleaded not guilty July 21 to a charge of first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor for reportedly having sex with a 17-year-old male student last month when she was a teacher at Garfield High School in Seattle.

Taryn M. Fairbanks, 33, previously known as Taryn Stermer, entered the plea at her arraignment in King County Superior Court in Seattle, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office Web site. She returned to Seattle for the court hearing after moving July 1 to Las Vegas.

Fairbanks, when she was known as Taryn Stermer, taught from 2001 to 2004 at Kentlake High School, said a Kent School District official. She taught from 2004 to 2006 at Lindbergh High School, a Renton School District spokesman said.

The court reduced Fairbanks’ bail from $50,000 to $25,000 and allowed her temporary release to make arrangements for posting bail. King County jail records show Fairbanks was booked at 10:10 a.m. Wednesday and released one hour later.

Fairbanks is scheduled to return to court Aug. 3 for a pretrial hearing when a trial date could be set or attorneys from either side could ask for more time to prepare the case.

The charge of first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor is a Class C felony with a sentence range of six to 12 months in jail.

The age of consent for a sexual relationship is 16 in Washington state. But prosecutors charged Fairbanks with sexual misconduct because she is at least five years older than the student, not married to him and abused a supervisory position in order to engage in sexual activity, according to charging papers.

Fairbanks resigned June 30 from Garfield and moved July 1 to Las Vegas to live with her family.

Fairbanks admitted to a Seattle Police detective that she had oral sex with the 17-year-old male student on June 23 in the basement bedroom of his home, according to court documents.

The teacher also told the detective that she had an issue with alcohol and was in the midst of an alcohol relapse at the time of the incident.

Fairbanks told police she had stopped at the student’s house to drop off T-shirts and supplies for a school newspaper retreat.

The boy told police he had thrown a party at his house because his parents were out of town. He said the teacher text messaged him June 23 to see what he was doing and that she later showed up at his home and text messaged him from inside the home to join her and hang out with her. He told the detective that they went into the basement guest room at his home and that Fairbanks performed oral sex on him.

Fairbanks and the student each told police they had only the one incident of sexual contact between them.

Detectives were given an anonymous tip June 29 about the alleged sexual activity between the teacher and the 17-year-old student.

The complainant gave police the name of the student and reported she had learned about the incident when she intercepted a text message from her daughter’s phone that detailed the sexual activity.

Garfield Principal Ted Howard told detectives he had not heard about any sexual allegations against Fairbanks until police contacted him. Howard said he reportedly found out later news of Fairbanks’ sexual activities were widespread among students at Garfield and other schools.

The boy, 17, just completed his junior year at Garfield. He told detectives Fairbanks was one of his teachers. Fairbanks taught language arts and was an advisor for the school newspaper, The Messenger. She taught at Garfield since 2006 after previous teaching jobs in Renton and Kent.

There was no known history of sexual misconduct between Fairbanks and her students prior to June 2010, according to court documents.