Ex-Higley teacher

Aaron Dunton.

Gilbert Police last week arrested a former Higley High School social studies teacher accused of inappropriate relationships with two underage students.

Aaron Dunton, 35, was taken into custody 10 a.m. June 16 following a two-month investigation, police said. He faces four counts of aggravated assault, one count of tampering with a witness, and two counts of contributing to delinquency and dependency. According to court records, Dunton was facing one count of witness tampering, four counts of aggravated assault-adult and two counts of endangerment of life.

Dunton was arraigned June 17 and was given a $10,000 bail. If he posts the bond, he is to be supervised and be fitted with electronic monitoring, according to court documents. A preliminary hearing was set for June 27.

“Dunton, was engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old student,” police said.

“This investigation led to the discovery of another victim, who made allegations against Dunton for incidents that occurred in 2019 at Power Ranch Elementary when the victim was 11 years old.

“Dunton was the victim’s teacher at the time of these allegations.”

Higley Unified School District notified police of the allegation with the 14-year-old girl on April 13. The district Governing Board formally accepted Dunton’s April 14 request to be released early from his contract on April 20.

The district first hired Dunton in 2015 and he taught 6th grade science at Power Ranch. He had come to the district with glowing reviews from former employers.

Before his employment with HUSD, he worked six years for the University of Phoenix as an enrollment advisor and as a part-time coach at Kyrene School District from February 2011-May 2015, according to his HUSD personnel file.

Five days after the board released Dunton from his contract, the district emailed a notice on April 25 to parents at Higley High informing them about the situation.

Although Dunton’s name was not released at the time because he was not charged, parents on social media already knew who it was.

“I’m pretty sure the teaching license will be revoked,” one woman said. “Definitely a case where I knew my intuition was correct about someone.”

Dutton is married and has a young daughter.

A few people criticized HUSD for just alerting Higley High School parents about him.

“I feel it should have been sent to all of Higley School District as the person being investigated also taught at Power Ranch Elementary,” a man said. “Why not make sure there isn’t more to know and offer counseling to anyone affected?

“The way the letter reads they make it sound like the teacher was a former teacher having a relationship with a student when the fact is he was teaching and coaching up until last week. This is important information for the community to know.”

A woman agreed, saying “if he had ONLY taught/coached at the one school then I can see only communicating with that one school. This is potentially a bigger issue.”

When asked at the time why the district didn’t notify parents at Power Ranch also, the district spokeswoman said, “I cannot answer this question as the district has not released any community information with Aaron Dunton’s name.”

Apparently Dunton’s behavior was known among students at Higley High.

“I had him last year as a teacher and he was really weird,” said a 16-year-old student, who did not want her name publicized. “Everyone said he stared at girls.

“There has been so many girls reporting him to administration … they didn’t have proof, just hearsay.”

The 10th-grader said the victim was a freshman and claimed that the relationship was “sexual.”

She said her friend, who is a friend of the victim, saw the text messages, did screen grabs of them and reported it to administration.

She said the victim left before school ended because she is sure is was due to “all the harassment from people, ‘oh, did you have sex with Mr. Dunton?’ sort of things.”

“People have been talking about it since the teacher resigned,” she said at the time, adding she decided to talk because “if there are any other victims, this can help them speak up knowing they are not alone.”