ST. GEORGE — A woman who formerly worked as a counselor at a high school in St. George has been charged with having a “sexual encounter” with a female student in 2008 while she was working at a local high school.
Heidi Tasso, 50, of St. George, was charged Tuesday in 5th District Court with third-degree felony unlawful sexual conduct with a 17-year-old.
Tasso was employed at Millcreek High School when she worked with the teen. The two allegedly had a “sexual encounter” while lying in Tasso’s bed at her home the night of June 2, 2008, according to charging documents filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office.
Tasso was originally hired by the Washington County School District in 1998.
When the district learned of allegations against Tasso on Sept. 2, 2015, officials “immediately” contacted authorities and began an investigation into her conduct, Washington County School District spokesman Steven Dunham told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Tasso resigned nine days later, the Tribune reports. The district turned over its findings to the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission four days later.
Under Utah Administrative Rule 277-516, licensed educators are required to report arrests for alleged sex offenses, alleged alcohol-related offenses, alleged drug-related offenses and alleged offenses against the person under Utah Code Section 76-5. Educators must also report convictions, including pleas in abeyance and diversion agreements.
A St. George Police investigation into the 2008 incident began in June 2016.
In November 2014, Tasso received a Human Rights Activist award at the annual Utah School Counselor Association Conference at Dixie State University. Recipients of the award are chosen based on nominations from colleagues for “understanding cultural differences and supporting the underserved student population.”
Tasso later worked for Dixie State University from Feb. 16, 2016, to Oct. 7, 2016, as its student success center director, Jyl Hall, the university’s director of public relations, told St. George News Thursday.
“The position is structured a little differently now,” Hall said, adding:
But at the time of her hiring, the director of Student Success Center worked with faculty and staff to provided leadership, oversight and coordination for such retention initiatives as the structured enrollment program, learning communities, student orientation and supplemental instruction. The director ensured that new first-time students are provided a quality, comprehensive experience that promotes student learning, student persistence and academic success.
In accordance with Dixie State University Policy 329, background checks are conducted as a condition of employment, Hall said, but because charges had not yet been filed at the time of Tasso’s hiring, the university was not aware of the situation.
According to Utah Court documents, Tasso has no other criminal history in Utah.
Tasso is scheduled to appear before 5th District Judge John Walton for her initial appearance Feb. 20.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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