A high school automotive repair instructor has been charged with felony sexual battery on a minor after a female student disclosed to police that she experienced sexual harassment and assault at his hands for the past year.
Why any student needs to exchange text messages with a teacher, and why parents weren’t aware of it is anyone’s guess, but the victim showed police exchanges on her phone which gave authorities probable cause to arrest Patrick Todd Smith, 51, of Bonneville County, Idaho. The victim alleges she was the recipient of unwanted comments, touching, hugging, and kissing from Smith, who also told her life would be “so much easier” for him if she weren’t 17. Things came to a head in May 2019 when he allegedly put his hands down her pants, after which she went home and the aforementioned text message exchange took place, where he incriminated himself by asking if she was okay, and telling her he’d knock it off (he apparently did not knock it off, as the victim claims she was harassed even more after she turned 18).
Smith groomed his students, as the victim stated to crisis workers at the Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center that he was known to push the limits of appropriate conduct in the classroom, making lewd comments and jokes with his students, and regularly crossing boundaries with unwanted touching. Things really took a turn when he got the victim alone, however.
The assault took place at Bonneville Technical Careers High School in Idaho Falls. The school has a low college readiness rate, which is to be expected as it is designed to prepare students to enter trade fields. A large percentage (80%) of the student population is male, and there is a low teacher-to-student ratio.
Prior to teaching at Technical Careers High School, Smith was a former sheriff’s deputy with Bonneville County, serving there from 2007 to 2011. He is currently on paid administrative leave at the school.