Former area teacher charged with sending teen inappropriate messages

July 31, 2014

A former Washington High School teacher faces charges after police said he sent inappropriate text messages to a 17-year-old student at Penn-Trafford High School.

Michael D. Garet, 31, of Trafford, who teaches at Penn-Trafford in Westmoreland County, was charged last week with stalking, harassment and disorderly conduct after district officials notified police of Garet’s relationship with the boy. While their interactions were not sexual in nature, police called the contact “inappropriate.”

Garet, a high school Spanish teacher and Washington native, has been on unpaid leave since the investigation began in February, Penn-Trafford Superintendent Matthew Harris said.

The district was notified in February by the boy’s mother, who was concerned about her son’s interactions with Garet, court documents said. The teen told police he was fearful for his safety and of seeing Garet at school. He also told police he has a younger sibling coming to the high school and was concerned she would also have problems with Garet.

The boy, who plays soccer, told police the messages were “more than a concerned coach and friend,” court documents indicated.

Police reviewed dozens of messages between Garet and the boy from November to February. Many of the messages revolved around Garet trying to figure out what the boy was doing in his spare time and if he wanted to spend time with him. In one message, Garet told the teen where he lived. According to court documents, Garet said, “Right down the road from me. Hahaha now you know where to go for the World Cup viewing parties this summer.”

In other messages, Garet would plan his day around the boy’s school schedule. According to court documents, Garet said, “By the way, what do you want to do for 7th period tomorrow: library or my room?”

Police said Garet also regularly monitored the teen’s Twitter account and his mother’s Facebook page, and visited the boy at work. Garet would also invite the boy to accompany him at events or to local restaurants, court documents said. This included University of Pittsburgh basketball games, to the high school when school wasn’t in session and to his home when his wife wasn’t present, police said.

The boy provided his mother with the conversations. She then took them to the high school principal.

Harris, in a public announcement, said Garet has been cooperative.

His fate with the district depends on the outcome of the criminal investigation, he said.

Garet graduated from Trinity High School in 2001 and was a former head coach for the Canon-McMillan boys soccer varsity team.

Roberta DiLorenzo, Washington School District superintendent, said Garet was employed with the district from 2006 to 2010. She said he left for a job with another district.

According to Garet’s profile on the Penn-Trafford School District website, Garet started working at the high school in 2010. Garet also said he graduated from Washington & Jefferson College in 2005, where he majored in Spanish and political science and minored in secondary education. He also played soccer for W&J.

DiLorenzo said Garet had no disciplinary actions while he was employed at Washington High School, where he worked as a Spanish teacher.

“He was very responsible. Dependable,” she said. “He had a good rapport with students and families.”

She said the news about Garet “shocked” her.

“It’s a blow to everyone who works in the field,” she said. “We are held to higher standards. We have to be role models.”

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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