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School board reinstates former ND Teacher of the Year after charges were dropped

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The 2014 North Dakota Teacher of the Year who was accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female student in 2009 may soon be teaching again, despite pleas from his alleged victim.

"I would like to say that just because you can't see the scars I have from this trauma, it doesn't mean they aren't there. Furthermore, I beg you not to allow anyone else's daughter to be Aaron Knodel's second chance, it definitely isn't worth the risk," the alleged victim, who is now 24, told the school board, according to KVRR.

Despite the woman's request, the West Fargo School Board voted unanimously Monday to allow Aaron Knodel, 36, to continue teaching after all charges against him were dropped and the board conducted an "extensive investigation", WDAY reports.

The board also agreed to pay him backpay for the time he spent on unpaid suspension, which goes back to August 2014, reports note.

“We believe that Mr. Knodel’s interactions, including phone calls with the student, were well intended on his part,” Superintendent David Flowers said Monday as part of a prepared statement, according to the West Fargo Pioneer, noting Knodel was only attempting to fulfill a request by the school that asked teachers to reach out and mentor struggling students.

The school board noted this case is a learning opportunity for the district, which should consider policies on how to handle similar situations in the future, reports note.

"With today's social media, the way things can get around, it's difficult for both staff and students. I think we're behind the curve as a state and district on how we handle these situations. Something has to change," board member Dave Olson said, according to Valley News Live.

What's next?

Before Knodel is back in the classroom, the North Dakota Education Standards and Practices Board will discuss if he violated any ethical standards and discuss the status of his license, the West Fargo Pioneer reports.

The board plans to meet Monday, and is expected to vote in favor of reinstating Knodel's job, his lawyer told WDAY.

"Aaron gets his life back. Aaron gets to go do what he's great at, which is teaching kids and influencing young people. I'm assuming that tomorrow morning, Aaron will start looking at his materials to get ready for school," Michael Geiermann, Knodel's attorney, told WDAY.

If he is reinstated by the state board, decisions on what he will do within the school district will be made by the time school resumes Aug. 25, reports note.

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