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PRLHS teacher facing lewd conduct, sexual abuse charges

Staff Writer | January 27, 2022 1:00 AM

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SANDPOINT — A Priest River Lamanna High School teacher is facing charges of lewd conduct, and child sexual abuse.

Sarai Lynn McCormick, 37, of Ponderay was charged in connection to events on Oct. 30 at a Priest River residence involving one of her students.

First District Magistrate Judge Lori Meulenberg found probable cause for both charges on Friday.

According to court documents, McCormick attended a Halloween party at the private residence on Oct. 30. McCormick was described as already intoxicated when she arrived, according to witness interviews with school officials and law enforcement.

Witnesses also claimed that McCormick brought gelatin shots and a liquor bottle to the party, providing the alcohol to the underage attendees.

One witness told law enforcement that he saw McCormick making out with the victim at the party before the two left the house.

A small group of underage attendees left the party in search of the two, and found them in McCormick’s vehicle parked near the residence.

This angered McCormick and she moved the car further down the street to avoid the others, according to the witnesses.

The victim did not speak of the abuse in the forensic interview because he didn’t want anyone to get in trouble. However shortly after the interview ended, a sheriff’s office detective told the victim that PRLHS principal Matthew George promised he would not punish the students if they were honest and cooperated with the investigation.

Shortly after, the victim disclosed the alleged abuse by McCormick.

Although the abuse was described as a “normal” event by the victim, the age of consent in Idaho is 16 years old. Since the victim is not over 16 years of age, the event qualifies as lewd conduct.

That next morning, McCormick was caught on Walmart security footage purchasing emergency contraceptives, according to court documents.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, the students awoke at the residence that same morning. The victim told the others what had happened and that it was a bigger deal than originally anticipated. The victim was described by peers and family members as being upset and depressed for days after the event.

McCormick was arrested on Friday, but did not spend the night in jail after posting $50,000 bail that same day.

The maximum sentence for lewd conduct is life in prison. Child sexual abuse carries a maximum sentence of 25 years. Both can also be accompanied by a $50,000 fine.

McCormick is scheduled for an initial appearance in Magistrate Court in front of Meulenberg on Feb. 4.

According to court documents, sometime shortly after the party, McCormick and the witnesses collectively considered remaining silent about her attendance and actions. The students were made to delete all photos and videos of McCormick at the party. However, rumors immediately started circulating at the high school about McCormick’s conduct. Formal allegations became known to law enforcement just days later.

Law enforcement decided to pursue investigation into the rumors after a staff member and the victims mother provided information that suggesting concerning behavior by McCormick.

A staff member reported to the school counselor that she saw McCormick acting “flirty” with the victim the week prior to the alleged abuse. The witness described the behavior as giving her the “heebie jeebies.”

In court documents, the victim’s mother told law enforcement that McCormick would lock the door to her classroom while tutoring the victim, “so other students do not interrupt them.”

Even though the victim did not disclose the alleged abuse at first, after speaking about the allegations, the victim said that they felt much better after telling the truth.

There are 24/7 resources available for anyone wanting to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse against minors. There is no time limit preventing those who wish to come forward and seek justice. LillyBrooke Family Justice Center can be reached at 208-265-3586.

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