Apr. 29—A Valley High School teacher is accused of sending inappropriate sexual text messages to an underage student.
Police charged Sean Timothy O'Neil, 34, of North Apollo with felony counts of disseminating explicit sexual materials to a minor, unlawful contact with a minor, corruption of minors and criminal use of a communication facility. He also faces a misdemeanor charge of harassment.
O'Neil was arraigned Thursday morning before New Kensington District Judge Frank J. Pallone Jr. and released after posting 10% of $20,000 bail.
O'Neil's attorney, Brian D. Aston, could not be reached for comment.
New Kensington-Arnold Acting Superintendent Jon Banko said O'Neil was told not to return to the school and would not be in the classroom. Banko said he would be discussing O'Neil's employment status with a district labor attorney Thursday evening.
Banko said the district has and will continue to cooperate with authorities, he said.
In a criminal complaint filed against O'Neil, New Kensington police said they began investigating April 9 after receiving a referral from a Westmoreland County Children and Youth Services caseworker.
Police said the girl told them she exchanged text messages with O'Neil before Sept. 17, 2020, but they were typically about school and never inappropriate. She said the only time O'Neil texted inappropriately was the night of Sept. 17-18, 2020.
The complaint said a text message chain on the student's phone showed she told O'Neil she wanted to get high, and he said, "I'd give you some if I had some."
The conversation proceeded from there to topics of a sexual nature.
Police obtained a search warrant for O'Neil's phone. Police were later told O'Neil was seen deleting something off of his phone as he was giving it to an officer.
Police said O'Neil spoke with investigators April 13. He reported that the girl had been upset when she texted him that September evening, so he texted her back.
O'Neil told police he should have stopped the conversation at two points, but the girl seemed to be depressed so he tried to cheer her up, the complaint said. Police said he told officers he did not intend for the texts to become sexual in nature.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 13.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .