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Originally published July 13, 2010 at 11:34 AM | Page modified July 13, 2010 at 9:58 PM

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Former Garfield High teacher charged with having sex with student

A former teacher at Seattle's Garfield High School has been charged with sexual misconduct after authorities say she had sex with a 17-year-old student.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A former teacher at Seattle's Garfield High School is facing criminal charges after authorities say she had sex with a 17-year-old student.

King County prosecutors Tuesday afternoon charged Taryn Fairbanks, 33, with first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor. Fairbanks, previously known as Taryn Stermer, resigned from the school district less than a month ago and moved to Las Vegas.

On Monday, Seattle Public Schools mailed a letter about the incident to families of the nearly 1,800 students who attend Garfield. Fairbanks was named in the letter.

A school district spokeswoman said Fairbanks taught language arts and advised the school newspaper, The Messenger. Previously, she taught in the Kent and Renton school districts.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Cecelia Gregson is seeking Fairbanks' arrest and is asking that she be held in the King County Jail on $50,000 bail. If convicted, Fairbanks faces up to a year in jail, prosecutors said.

Seattle police spokeswoman Renee Witt said detectives are still investigating and "hoping that if there are other victims that they'll come forward."

Seattle police started investigating Fairbanks in late June after a woman reported reading text messages on her daughter's cellphone discussing Fairbanks' sexual history, according to a police report.

Garfield principal Ted Howard was notified and learned that "rumors of the teacher's sexual activity were widespread among students at Garfield, and even among students at other schools," the police report said.

When officers spoke with the 17-year-old student, he said that Fairbanks had sex with him June 23 during a party at his home while his parents were out of town, police said.

While the age of consent for a sexual relationship in Washington state is 16, it is criminal for a teacher or anyone else in a position of power to have sexual relations with anyone under the age of 18.

When detectives interviewed Fairbanks on July 6, she said she stopped by the party to drop off "some T-shirts and supplies for the school newspaper retreat," the police report said. Police said Fairbanks talked about the sex act and indicated she has "an issue with alcohol" and was "in the midst of an alcohol relapse at the time of the incident," according to the police report.

In early June, Fairbanks allegedly had sexual relations with a former Garfield student — who is now 19, police said. The man declined to give police details, but said that it was only a "one-night connection" that occurred after he graduated in 2009.

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Fairbanks was hired in September 2006 to teach at Garfield, said district spokeswoman Teresa Wippel. She turned in a resignation letter in early June, saying she would be leaving effective June 30. Police say she moved to Las Vegas the following day.

"This teacher betrayed the trust of students, families and colleagues," Wippel said. "All adults in the school building share the responsibility of creating a safe learning environment for the kids."

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.

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