Marysville high school office manager charged with sex abuse of student

Carmen Phillips, 37, sent explicit messages to a teen at Heritage High School, then took him to a park, according to new charges.

Marysville

TULALIP — The former school office manager at Heritage High School was charged this week with sexually abusing a teenage student.

The boy, who was under the age of 18, disclosed to another staffer at Heritage that Carmen Phillips, 37, had sexual contact with him in October 2022, according to charges filed this week in Snohomish County Superior Court.

A Tulalip Tribal Police detective responded to the school and met Phillips in a conference room. She reportedly agreed to an interview. The detective told her about the allegations. She denied them.

“The Defendant said that it was not true, that she has not texted with him, they did not have a relationship, had never met up with him outside of school, and never had any sexual contact of any kind,” according to the charges written by deputy prosecutor Elliot Thomsen.

The detective asked what she thought of the boy. She responded all she knew about him was that he was late for school every day, the charges say. Police spoke with the teen, who claimed he’d made up a story to impress the staffer — but also told another staff member that he’d tried to come up with a cover story.

The school district immediately put Phillips on paid administrative leave.

Meanwhile, a couple days later, the boy agreed to talk again with Tulalip police. He reported the relationship started three or four weeks earlier, and they would talk via text. He’d deleted sexual messages and images when he found out Phillips was in trouble, according to the charges.

The boy recounted once that Phillips picked him up from his house after leaving the school. They drove to a park and had sexual contact on a park bench, according to the charges. Police kept the boy’s phone and searched it for evidence. The detective was able to uncover messages from Phillips’ phone number, beginning in late September 2022.

“Mmm you have no idea how hard it is to behave,” she wrote, among other far more explicit messages, the charges say.

One image appeared to show them in the act. Security footage reportedly showed Phillips wearing the same gray shirt at school that day. Metadata in the image showed the picture was taken on the afternoon of Oct. 7, at Deering Wildflowers Acres Park, about 5 miles east of the high school.

In late October 2022, Phillips agreed to a follow-up interview. The detective confronted her with the evidence. She sobbed, according to the charges. She reportedly acknowledged sending some text messages while at school and others while at home. She admitted to some sexual acts, but denied others.

Phillips remained on leave until February, pending the investigation, according to the school district. She’s no longer employed by the district.

On Sept. 12, 2023, Phillips pleaded guilty in Tulalip Tribal Court to communication with a minor for immoral purposes. The school is on the Tulalip Reservation and the student is affiliated with a Native American tribe. A tribal court judge sentenced Phillips to 60 days in jail.

In March 2024, following posts on social media about the allegations, the school district alerted parents that one of its non-teaching staff members had been charged with a sex crime, noting further details would not be released “out of respect for those involved in the process.”

Phillips is now charged with first-degree sexual abuse with a minor in a state court. Under Washington law, it’s a felony for a school employee to have sexual contact with an enrolled student between the ages of 16 and 21.

An arraignment is set for May 29.

Phillips’ defense attorney, Taylor Severns, did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Herald.

Court records suggest Phillips had no prior criminal record.

“The District takes all students’ health, safety, and welfare very seriously,” Marysville School District spokesperson Jodi Runyon wrote in a statement Thursday. “The District wants to be clear that it is reprehensible when any staff member breaches the trust placed in them by the District with any student. Throughout this process, the Marysville School District’s highest priorities will continue to provide students with a safe and supportive learning environment.”

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

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