PORT ANGELES — A former Forks Middle School paraeducator who allegedly admitted she had a two-month sexual relationship with a seventh-grade boy pleaded not guilty Friday to five child rape charges that grew out of several alleged encounters in a classroom and elsewhere.
The admission by Tammy Leask, 39, is contained in a probable cause statement compiled by investigators that led to her arrest the morning of Aug. 27 in the Quillayute Valley School District parking lot.
The lifelong Forks resident and married mother of three children was charged Aug. 28 with five counts of second-degree child rape and one count of distribution of controlled substance — Xanax — to the 13-year-old student.
Each sexual assault charge includes a special allegation that Leask engaged in an ongoing pattern of sexual abuse and that she used her position of trust to commit the crime.
Schools Superintendent Diana Reaume said Friday that procedures for interactions between students and staff may be reviewed as a result of the case, adding that procedures are reviewed annually.
Whether Leask’s statements will be admissible as evidence if her case goes to trial will be decided at an upcoming a 3.5 hearing in Clallam County Superior Court.
Judge Simon Barnhart on Friday set a status hearing for 1 p.m. Sept. 25, the 3.5 hearing for 9 a.m. Oct. 7 and a trial date of Oct. 12.
Leask’s lawyer, Stan Myers of Port Angeles, and Michele Devlin, chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, agreed the trial will last 1½ weeks.
The felonies allegedly occurred between Nov. 1, 2019 and Jan. 11, 2020, and could lead to a minimum sentence of 17½ years in prison for Leask, who does not have a criminal record.
The alleged victim said he and Leask had oral sex and intercourse five times in the open in her classroom and once in her minivan at a campground during a shopping trip, according to the probable cause statement.
The boy said Leask told him she wanted to help him lose his virginity and help him with his depression.
He said she pressured him into having sex and that she “would end up going crazy” if they didn’t, scaring him that she would hurt someone if they did not, according to the statement.
The boy’s parents sent him to a mental hospital in Tacoma in January “because they thought his relationship with Tammy was ‘weird,’” according to the statement.
Leask, who the boy said gave him two Xanax pills, told him “this is all my fault” and urged him to “tell them nothing happened” in a phone call recorded Aug. 26, after the boy told authorities about the assaults.
She told him in the conversation that she had lost her job with the district.
Leask had been listed on the school district’s website staff list as a summer school paraeducator, effective June 25, 2018.
On Aug. 27, following Leaks’s arrest, she told investigators the boy was suicidal and that he pressured her for oral sex, which she said occurred in her classroom, and bought him alcohol, tobacco and pornographic magazines at his request. She said she “maybe” gave him Xanax.
“He was always just so sad, I just, I was just trying to help him,” Leask said in the probable cause statement.
“It just got out of control. I just couldn’t stop it.”
Myers said the 3.5 hearing at which Leask’s statements will be reviewed is required for defendants’ statements to be admitted at a trial.
Myers received about 100 pages of discovery last week and expects more documents, including text messages between Leask and the boy, and the verbatim interviews of Leask and the boy by investigators.
Myers expects to meet with Leask today to discuss the case.
“I think she is doing fine,” he said.
“She’s got a loving, caring family.”
Schools Superintendent Diana Reaume said Friday the school district learned of the alleged abuse Friday, Aug. 27, had a third-party investigator from the district’s insurance risk pool interview the alleged victim the following Monday and notified the sheriff’s office that Tuesday.
“We responded very quickly,” she said.
“Once the authorities and the sheriff’s department wrap things up, if there are other outstanding issues we need to follow up on, we’ll bring back the third-party investigator. We are working through that process now.”
She said she did not have the “level of detail” to determine the circumstances around which the alleged sexual abuse could have repeatedly occurred in a classroom.
Student-teacher safety protocols are regularly reviewed, including those dealing with “boundary invasion,” Reaume said.
“I want to stress how important we stress student safety in the Quillayute School District,” she said.
“It’s the most important thing we do.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.