Jenny Lind Elementary teacher Wesley Earle Levi was arrested Friday on a charge of secretly photographing children in his sixth-grade classroom in compromising poses.
Levi, 52, was arrested at Sacramento International Airport by authorities from Calaveras and Sacramento counties as he returned from a holiday trip to Idaho, according to Calaveras County Sheriff´s Capt. Mike Walker.
The digital photographs, involving three victims, predominantly girls, were taken in Levi´s class, Walker said, and consisted of children sitting in compromising positions or bending over so you could see down their blouse.
None of the children were deliberately posed and the incidents apparently did not go beyond the picture-taking, Walker added.
It´s not unusual for a teacher to have a digital camera in the classroom to take pictures of class projects or other events, Walker said, and the students were aware Levi was taking photographs.
But the photos were taken from such an angle and enlarged in a manner that focused on the students´ underwear and bodies that made it a crime, Walker said.
“None of the kids were apparently aware they were being photographed in this manner,” Walker said. “This one teacher used his camera inappropriately for his own gratification.”
A detective has contacted all parents in Levi´s class, Walker said.
The investigation began about a week before Levi´s arrest, Walker said, when a person, unassociated with the school, observed about a half-dozen pictures in his possession and felt they were inappropriate.
Those photos have been confiscated, Walker said, and computers and a digital camera found at the school and Levi´s home also have been seized.
The electronic equipment was sent to the state´s high tech crimes task force to retrieve whatever information they may contain. Walker hopes, because of Levi´s occupation, the process can be accelerated, but said it usually takes about 120 days before the state has any results.
Levi is free on $10,000 bail.
When contacted for comment by telephone Saturday, Levi said he was not answering any questions. This is Levi´s second year at Jenny Lind Elementary School, according to Calaveras Unified School District Superintendent Jim Frost. “We are putting him on administrative leave,” Frost said. By law, that has to be paid leave. If formal charges are filed, that may be changed, Frost said.
A replacement teacher has been assigned to Levi´s class, Frost said, adding that he and school Principal Karen Dickerson will be in the class when students return to school Monday. Counseling services also will be available, Frost said.
Advice and brochures for talking to children about situations such as this also are available from the Prevent Child Abuse Calaveras Council, according to counselor Tammy Beilstein. The council can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 754-1205.
Beilstein also is the mother of two former students of Levi.
“The kids thought he was a really nice guy,” she said. Beilstein hadn´t talked with any of the other parents yet, saying the information about his arrest was just beginning to get around.
Levi has a degree from Boise State University and did student teaching in second and fifth grade at Lake Hazel Elementary School in Idaho, according to one of his mentor teachers, Beth Stallsmith. “He was always just fabulous with kids,” Stallsmith said.
She added she was impressed by how he was “in tune” with the students, and was very good about sensing when they were down and encouraging them. No arraignment or other court date for Levi had been scheduled as of Monday afternoon.
Calaveras Enterprise story by Craig Koscho. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com