Longtime elementary teacher in Benson, Minnesota, charged for alleged sexual contact with three students
Roger Joseph Ebnet, of Benson, a teacher for more than 30 years, is being charged with three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, alleging he had sexual contact with three minor boys. Benson Public Schools said Ebnet is on paid administrative leave.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct that Roger Ebnet is, according to Superintendent Dennis Laumeyer, on unpaid leave from a teaching position with Benson Public Schools. A Facebook post from Benson Public Schools immediately after the arrest was apparently in error in reference to Ebnet's status.
BENSON — A longtime Benson Public Schools elementary teacher is charged with sexual misconduct after a video recording from a classroom showed him having alleged sexual contact last week with three children, aged 7 and 8.
Roger Joseph Ebnet, 59, was arrested Friday and made his first appearance Monday in Swift County District Court on three felony charges of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. The charging document alleges the children were seated between his legs throughout various times of the day and that he placed the children’s hands on his groin area.
Judge Keith Helgeson on Monday set unconditional bail at $200,000 and conditional bail at $25,000. Conditions for release with the lesser bail amount include electronic GPS monitoring, no contact with the alleged victims or any minor children, exclusion from the Benson Public Schools premises and a four-hour delay in release after posting bail to allow alleged victims to be notified.
Ebnet remained in custody in the Yellow Medicine County Jail as of 3:30 p.m. Monday. His next hearing is scheduled Dec. 14.
According to the criminal complaint, a Benson Police Department officer on Friday viewed a video recording from a classroom at Northside Elementary School in Benson.
The video was recorded Dec. 1 and allegedly shows Ebnet sitting on a chair and his elementary students seated on a rug in front of him. The complaint does not say how many children were in the room in total.
Ebnet allegedly had three separate minor males seated between his legs at various times. The complaint states that Ebnet appears to have the children close their eyes and face away from him.
Ebnet is observed in the video placing the boys’ hands behind their backs and under his own groin area as he moves behind them, according to the complaint.
The court document describes Ebnet having one boy’s hand on his groin for approximately four minutes while class is in session and the other children have their eyes closed.
In another instance, Ebnet appears to adjust his groin area and is seen messing up a boy’s hair and placing his hand on the child’s right buttock.
Additional video from Nov. 30 shows similar behavior when Ebnet has one of the three boys sitting between his legs and grabs the boy’s hands. In that video, Ebnet allegedly continues to squirm in his chair after the boy removed his hands, according to the complaint.
On its Facebook page, Benson Public Schools posted over the weekend that it was aware of the pending criminal case against Ebnet and said the district, “takes the safety and security of our students very seriously, and has been cooperating and will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement in its investigation.”
The school district's policy on video surveillance says that school buildings and grounds may be equipped with video cameras and surveillance may occur on district property. Surveillance in bathrooms and locker rooms is restricted, but it may occur in limited circumstances with the superintendent's approval.
The policy does not differentiate between common areas of a school and individual classrooms.
According to the policy, video recordings may be viewed randomly by school district personnel and may be viewed if problems have been brought to the attention of school district leaders. Videos may be used in disciplinary proceedings against students or employees, according to the policy.
Ebnet is currently on unpaid administrative leave, according to Superintendent Dennis Laumeyer. The Facebook post from the school district immediately after the arrest was apparently in error in reference to Ebnet's status.
Ebnet has been a teacher for more than 30 years, and was named a 2017 Educator of Excellence by the Minnesota Rural Education Association .
According to West Central Tribune archives, Ebnet led a Northside Elementary effort that in 2013 brought a celebrity visit and more than $12,000 in prize money to Benson Schools through a "Give with Target" promotion. A concert by country music artist Luke Bryan headlined the event, which also featured other celebrity appearances.