Heather Winfield has been identified as the 38-year-old Alpena Public Schools teacher who was arrested and charged with multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct involving children. Winfield was a former at special education teacher at Thunder Bay Junior High School.
According to reports, a joint investigation into Winfield conducted by the Michigan State Police and the Alpena Police Department began in 2016 and concluded in July 2018. Alpena County Prosecutor K. Edward Black said that Winfield taught at Alpena Public Schools from October 2012 until her resignation in November 2016.
Following the investigation, Winfield was charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct 1st degree (involving a child under 13), one count of criminal sexual conduct 1st degree (during the commission of a felony), criminal sexual conduct 3rd degree (child 13-15), criminal sexual conduct 2nd degree (child under 13), accosting a minor for immoral purposes, and using a computer to commit a crime.
Winfield was arraigned in court on Tuesday, January 14, by Judge Thomas J. LaCross. If convicted of her charges, Winfield faces a possible sentence of life in prison.
Alpena Public Schools officials released the following statement following Winfield’s arrest:
“Alpena Public Schools is committed to the safety, security, and quality of the learning environment for all of our students. We will always take proper action in alignment with our board policies and Michigan law to maintain a safe environment for students. Heather Winfield was employed with Alpena Public Schools from October 15, 2012, until her official resignation on November 11, 2016. Alpena Public Schools has cooperated with this investigation from the beginning and will continue to cooperate moving forward. Due to state and federal law protecting student privacy and personnel records, we are unable to share any additional details at this time. Alpena Public Schools is a proud participant with OK2SAY (www.michigan.gov/ok2say). Students and families are encouraged to report any issues that they feel places students or staff members at risk.”
As for why there has been such a significant increase in instances of teachers having inappropriate relationships with students, researchers believe that technology is to blame.
According to a report from the Texas Education Association, smartphones make easy for teachers to privately text and talk with students and also make it possible for teachers and students to share explicit images.
SESAME (Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct & Exploitation) President Terri Miller echoed that sentiment, stating “before cell phones, we knew who our kids were talking to” but today, “kids have their own phones, they’re taking them to bed, and parents need to watch more.”
Hoffman has been one of many teachers to be charged for inappropriate conduct. Over the course of just a few months, teachers across the United States have been charged, tried, and convicted of various abuse and sex crimes.
The list goes on to include 22-year-old Oklahoma science teacher Hunter Day, 28-year-old teacher Megan Kotarski, 23-year-old history teacher Michelle Schiffer, 29-year-old Alyssia Marie Reddy, special education teacher Jordan Ondish and 28-year-old Samantha Fitzpatrick have all been allegedly carrying on inappropriate relationships with their students.
That is all the information available at this time. This article will be updated with new and relevant information should it become available.