Published Friday, November 5, 1999
Educational assistant charged with having sex with student, 13Anne O'Connor / Star Tribune
A 31-year-old educational assistant at a middle school in Savage was charged Thursday with having sex with a 13-year-old Burnsville boy, one of her students.
Kristin Osterbauer, of Apple Valley, was charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and three counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor. Osterbauer, who has an extensive record of charges relating to drunken driving, is being held in the Dakota County jail in lieu of $20,000 bail. She will appear in court Nov. 15.
Osterbauer, also known as Kristin Moline, was hired as an assistant in the Spanish program at Eagle Ridge Junior High at the beginning of this school year. Language teachers are difficult to find, and Osterbauer, who's not a licensed teacher, taught two sections of Spanish in addition to her duties as an assistant.
On Tuesday, the school suspended her with pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation. On Wednesday, she was arrested and jailed.
According to a complaint filed Thursday in Dakota County, the mother of the 13-year-old boy reported him missing to Burnsville police when he didn't come home Oct. 10. The next morning, the boy called and said he'd fallen asleep at a friend's house. The mother called the number on her caller ID and was connected to a Days Inn in Bloomington. Osterbauer had checked into the motel, registering for two adults.
On Sunday, the complaint said, Osterbauer's husband came home and found her and the boy sitting on the couch. She had her shirt tucked up into her bra so her midsection was showing. Her husband became upset, and Osterbauer and the boy left in a cab. Her husband called police.
Police found romantic letters and poems reportedly written by Osterbauer to a male student.
Osterbauer's husband, who has been cooperating with law-enforcement officials, declined to comment Thursday.
The complaint said Osterbauer denied having sex with the boy but admitted giving him alcohol at her home, at his home and at the Days Inn. The boy, after initially denying that there had been sexual contact, said he and Osterbauer had sex twice, once at the Days Inn and once Sunday, the complaint said.
Paul D. Peterson, a Woodbury attorney representing the boy's family, said the parents learned of the situation in the past few days and are trying to cope with it.
"It's a very disruptive thing to these people and a very devastating thing," he said. "They don't know what to expect."
Class wasn't in session Thursday at Eagle Ridge, but parents and students streamed in to meet teachers for conferences. News of the incident was spreading.
"It's embarrassing. It's disgusting," said Marlene Sjoholm, whose two daughters attend the school. "You hope it's not true. They need to handle it very delicately."
School officials said they had received good feedback from students and teachers about Osterbauer's skills in the classroom, and they had been working to get her a teaching license as a community expert, a shortcut in the requirements for licensing.
The suspect's history
Osterbauer's record of drinking and driving goes back a decade in Hennepin County.
Her driver's license had been revoked and then canceled, but she was arrested behind the wheel again last December. According to the complaint, she hit two cars that were waiting at a light on the corner of 90th St. and Nicollet Av. in Bloomington. There was an open beer can on the floor of her car. She refused to take a blood-alcohol test and told the officers, "Arrest me; I'm drunk," the complaint said. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.36 percent. The legal limit in Minnesota is 0.10 percent.
Ben Kanninen, superintendent in the Burnsville-Savage-Eagan School District, said that a background check on Osterbauer was done and that school officials were in the process of reviewing court records, in part because they had been considering hiring her as a teacher when this situation came up.
Kanninen pointed out that Osterbauer's record includes no violent crimes or crimes against children. He said her record is indicative of someone with a drinking problem, which wouldn't automatically disqualify someone from being a teacher.
Still, he said, it raises red flags.
"There's nothing in there that even remotely resembles what we're dealing with today, but it is a record that gets your attention," Kanninen said.
Students will be helped with their concerns and questions when they return to school Monday, said Eagle Ridge Principal Keith Ryskoski. He said middle-school students can be particularly vulnerable to anxiety about such incidents.
"Kids at this age seem to very much internalize things they see and hear about, even if it's not directly affecting them," he said.
-- Staff writer Margaret Zack contributed to this article.
-- Staff writer Anne O'Connor can be reached at 612-673-4361.
© Copyright 1999 Star Tribune.