Ex-Astor Elementary teacher indicted for inappropriate touching

44-year-old Sean Benton was placed on leave in October 2016

Astor Elementary School in Portland was the first school to get new fixtures to stop the issue of lead in the drinking water. (KOIN)
Astor Elementary School in Portland. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A 44-year-old former teacher is accused of inappropriately touching three students last fall, according court documents.

Sean Richard Benton was last registered to work at Astor School in North Portland, according to records provided to KOIN 6 News by the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission. His professional teaching license went into effect on August 8, 2015 and was set to expire in August 2020.

Portland Public Schools confirmed to KOIN 6 News that Benton was no longer employed within the district, but provided no other details.

According to court records, “on or about” October 18, 2016 Benton “intentionally harassed and annoyed” a female student — who was a minor — by “touching her breast.”

The indictment, filed on September 28, also alleges that Benton “intentionally annoyed” two students by “subjecting” them to “offensive physical contact.” The charges are misdemeanors.

Citing the ongoing investigation, police have not said how old the victims were, but all three are minors.

On October 18, 2016, a police spokesperson confirmed that officers responded to Astor School “to investigate the report that a teacher was behaving inappropriately in class and with students.” Portland Public Schools then issued a statement that same day confirming that a teacher had been placed on leave.

The case was investigated by the Portland Police Bureau’s Youth Services Division and Child Abuse Team.

In April 2015, Benton was recognized for 5 years of service with the district.

Records show that Benton was arraigned on the 3-count indictment on Tuesday at the Multnomah County Justice Center. He did not appear in court on Tuesday.

The day after the indictment was handed down Benton signed a “waiver of appearance” form, indicating that he would allow his attorney to represent him during the initial appearance. People are only required to show up for their arraignments if they are charged with a felony. If they are charged with a misdemeanor, they can hire an attorney and waive their appearance. Under some circumstances, a judge can order a defendant to appear.

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Benton has not been booked into jail in connection with the indictment that was issued.

Ten days after Benton was put on leave by PPS, Karl Newsome, the former principal for Astor School, was put on leave. In June 2017, Newsome was appointed to supervise Sellwood Middle School as its principal. District records show Newsome remains in that position as of fall 2017.

Officials would not comment if the decision to put Newsome on leave was connected to Benton’s alleged incident, nor did PPS officials respond to numerous attempts to comment on this case.

However, Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission confirmed there is an open investigation, but said all details and materials related to the investigation are confidential.