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Iowa Teacher Who Showed ‘Safe Sex’ Video Won’t Be Charged

DES MOINES, Iowa - An elementary school teacher accused of showing an inappropriate video to students will not face criminal charges, Polk County Attorney John Sarcone decided Wednesday.

On Monday, Des Moines school officials placed teacher Karen Maresh on paid administrative leave for showing her fourth-grade students an online video about artist Keith Haring. The video, which Maresh showed last week, displayed one piece of artwork depicting a picture of two males masturbating each other with "Safe Sex" written above it. A second painting also showed male genitalia.

Sarah Foster, whose 10-year-old son attends Wright, complained to district officials and police, but authorities said the showing didn't cross a criminal line, Sarcone said.

"I question the wisdom of anyone who would show that video to a fourth-grade class, but our feeling was it didn't raise to the level of a criminal charge," he said. "The questionable parts went by pretty quickly."

Twyla Woods, the Des Moines school district chief of staff, did not return a phone call Wednesday seeking comment.

Foster said the county attorney made the wrong call.

"The principal said it was wrong," Foster said in an interview Wednesday evening. "The school's director of human resources said it was wrong. They both called it 'pornography.' Why can't the county attorney see that?"

The video runs 1 minute, 32 seconds. The two images in question run consecutively and are displayed for less than 2 seconds when the video plays at full speed.

However, Foster's son told her the "Safe Sex" image was projected on a classroom screen for several seconds while the video loaded on a computer Web browser.

"My son will never be able to get that image out of his mind," Foster said. "Everyone is protecting this teacher, but who is looking out for me and my son?"

Foster stopped short of calling for Maresh's firing but said she believes that the teacher's discipline should be made public, and that the district should institute a new policy to avoid similar issues in the future.

Des Moines officials have said they cannot discuss the specifics of the case because of employee privacy laws. Efforts to reach Maresh by telephone were unsuccessful.

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