Crime

Los Banos teacher on leave after claims of sexual misconduct with student

Gary Bettencourt, a teacher at Pacheco High School in Los Banos, has been placed on leave after allegations surfaced of a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student.
Gary Bettencourt, a teacher at Pacheco High School in Los Banos, has been placed on leave after allegations surfaced of a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student. cpride@losbanosenterprise.com

An English teacher at Pacheco High School in Los Banos has been placed on leave after allegations surfaced of a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student, the Police Department reported Tuesday.

The teacher, 40-year-old Gary Bettencourt, has not been arrested or formally charged with any crimes, Police Cmdr. Jason Hedden confirmed.

Bettencourt was placed on administrative leave Sept. 22 when Los Banos Unified School District officials first alerted police to the “potential misconduct,” the Police Department said in a news release. Bettencourt has been employed by the school district since 2002, authorities said.

In the statement issued Tuesday, police Chief Gary Brizzee described the investigation as a “top priority.”

“It is important to stress that this teacher has been removed from the school and I have been assured he will not return throughout the course of this investigation,” Brizzee said. “It is also important to consider that cases like this involve a great deal of investigation and that it will likely take some time, but our commitment to this case is unwavering.”

Police declined to discuss most details of the case, citing a need to protect the investigation. Officers said the allegations involve Bettencourt, the teenage student, and Bettencourt’s 21-year-old fiancée. Detectives believe there may have been multiple incidents of misconduct during the 2014-15 school year, officers confirmed.

Police described Bettencourt’s fiancée as a “potential suspect” in the case but declined to elaborate or release the woman’s name Tuesday.

Investigators on Sept. 25 served a search warrant at Bettencourt’s home in Turlock and also sought search warrants targeting telephone records, social media accounts and other “personal communication devices,” police said in the statement.

Officers declined to comment on what, if anything, may have been seized or discovered as a result of the warrants.

Hedden said police released some details of the case Tuesday in an effort to obtain more information from the public.

“We don’t know if there are other potential victims out there or if anyone from the public has more information about these or other possible incidents,” Hedden said. “We’d like anyone with information to contact us.”

According to the district’s website, Bettencourt teaches literature, language, theater, and digital media and film production. He also is listed as the director of the Pacheco Thespian Society and the school’s theater group.

The school district also issued a statement Tuesday, saying school counselors were prepared to meet with students if necessary. The statement said Bettencourt worked at Los Banos High School from 2002 to 2010, when he transferred to Pacheco High.

“The safety of all students is the district’s highest priority,” the statement said in part.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Eduardo Solis or Sgt. Ivan Mendez at 209-827-7070, ext. 0.

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