Ona Elisha Lyn Wilder, 27, 208 Huffmaster St., Rogersville, is scheduled for arraignment Friday in Hawkins County Criminal Court on two counts of statutory rape by an authority figure. The charges are Class B felonies punishable by 8-12 years if found guilty.
The alleged sexual relationship reportedly occurred on or about March 18, 2017 through April 16, 2017, during which time the student turned 15, and again on or about Oct. 1 through Oct. 10, 2017.
Wilder taught at Surgoinsville Middle School, where she was a language arts teacher and cheerleader coach until the end of the 2017-18 academic year.
The student was not attending SMS at the time of the alleged sexual relationship.
Sheriff Ronnie Lawson confirmed for the Times News, however, that the alleged victim was a former student of Wilder.
Wilder was not rehired at the end of the 2017-18 school year, but that was not related to any criminal allegations.
Typically at the end of each school year, the school system determines which non-tenured teachers will and won’t be rehired, usually on the basis of performance.
Director of Schools Matt Hixson wasn’t in Hawkins County at the time, but he said he was informed by staff that there was no indication while Wilder was employed at SMS that anything illegal was taking place.
The first time Hawkins County Schools became aware of the allegations against Wilder was last fall, when the school system was informed of a criminal investigation.
“It was a probationary release,” Hixson told the Times News on Tuesday. “It’s my understanding she was not someone we wanted to employ as a teacher. There are several reasons typically. My understanding is she was released for ineffectiveness, and there were no indications that we had any of those concerns (related to the charges) while she was here.”
The indictments allege that Wilder engaged in unlawful sexual penetration with the student and “acted intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly with regard to (the student’s) age, and was at the time of the offense in a position of trust.”
The indictment further alleges that Wilder used that position of trust “to accomplish sexual contact.”
Wilder was released from the Hawkins County Jail on $20,000 bond.