LAKE STEVENS — Prosecutors dropped sexual misconduct charges Monday against a Lake Stevens High School teacher and church volunteer who had been accused of harassing a student for months.
Mark Hein, 55, has been a math teacher at Lake Stevens High School since 2003. He was also a coach of the varsity boys’ basketball and tennis teams, according to a search warrant obtained by The Daily Herald. Since Aug. 17, Hein has been on paid administrative leave as police investigated, Lake Stevens School District officials said.
The warrant described Hein as a youth pastor at Lake Stevens Young Life. An area director for the youth-centered Christian ministry, Kaitlyn Russum, said he was “not a pastor,” but a volunteer who left that position in June 2022.
Following a months-long investigation by Lake Stevens detective Kristin Parnell, police recommended charges against Hein for two counts each of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation, sexual misconduct with a minor and communication with a minor for immoral purposes. All of those allegations were misdemeanors.
On Monday, the case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it can still be refiled if new evidence comes to light, according to a court motion signed by Marysville Municipal Court Judge Lorrie Towers.
It is still an active investigation, Lake Stevens Deputy Chief Jeff Young said. Police were in talks with the prosecution about refiling charges.
Other media outlets had already reported on the case based on a press release from Lake Stevens police. Hein’s attorney, Laura Shaver, told The Daily Herald her client had been vindicated.
“Detective Parnell’s investigation included interviews of over a dozen of Mr. Hein’s current and former students who described him as a caring teacher with a genuine interest in helping them succeed,” Shaver said. “Detective Parnell fell short in this case and while Mr. Hein is pleased that he has been absolved of wrongdoing, his life and the lives of his wife and two teenage children have been turned upside down.”
Lake Stevens police declined to respond to statements Shavers made about the case.
Detectives received a referral in June from Child Protective Services about information the teenage student provided in a therapy session. She described months of harassment and grooming by Hein, according to the warrant.
According to police, as a result of her encounters, the student was diagnosed with PTSD and started to experience seizures. She couldn’t attend school.
Hein’s inappropriate behavior with the girl reportedly began in September 2021. While attending his class, she was assigned to a desk near his. According to the girl, Hein repeatedly touched her thigh and arm in class, and when she asked Hein to stop, he responded, “Why? I’m not doing anything wrong.”
She worried about being alone with him, because “I didn’t want him to take it further,” she reportedly told investigators. Although the school has surveillance cameras, none are in the classrooms, she noted. Hein also exchanged inappropriate notes with the student during class about “boy crushes” and gossip, according to the warrant.
The girl reported Hein gave her good grades she believed she didn’t earn. After retaking a test, her grade changed from a D to an A, despite missing many problems. In another example, the teacher gave her an A for a homework assignment she did not complete, police wrote.
The teacher also asked her where her cheerleading competitions took place so he could attend. On another occasion, he asked if she would go to an overnight camp for Young Life with him, according to the warrant. The student was reportedly so afraid to be in the same classroom as Hein that she transferred to another teacher’s math class. He began to regularly visit, the detective wrote.
In early 2022, the girl and her mother came forward to school officials. Administrators told the girl they spoke to Hein and he would stay away from her. The next day, however, he visited her in class and caressed her shoulder, asking her if she was mad at him, police reported. The student took a screenshot of a Snapchat message from a classmate.
“This is awkward to watch,” the classmate reportedly wrote.
In late July, police served a search warrant for Hein’s disciplinary records and electronic files held by the school.
Officers interviewed Hein in August. When asked about personal emails he’d sent to the girl, “he acknowledged that he used poor judgment, but stated he frequently responds to student emails outside of school hours, including while he is with his family.”
Around the same time, the school district put Hein on paid leave.
Last week, Lake Stevens officers arrested Hein. He posted $6,000 bail that evening and was released from jail.
An arraignment hearing Tuesday morning was canceled. City prosecutors declined to comment Tuesday about why the charges were dropped.
The school district’s investigation into inappropriate or unprofessional conduct remained ongoing, district spokesperson Jayme Taylor said.
“Our number one priority is to provide a safe and secure learning environment for our students,” Taylor said. “We encourage students to report any instance of inappropriate conduct. “All reports will be taken seriously, and thoroughly investigated. Emergencies should be reported to 911. Non-emergency information can be shared with any staff member or on the anonymous SafeSchools Tip Line.”
Anyone with further information can contact detectives at 425-622-9369.
Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @EDHJonTall.
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