A former Eden Prairie High School (EPHS) teacher has been charged in Hennepin County District Court with one count of child endangerment in what experts in the field refer to as child grooming.
Craig Lee Hollenbeck, 51, of Minneapolis, is not in custody but has been summoned to appear in court.
According to the police complaint:
Eden Prairie Police received a report in September 2021 from a mandatory reporter of an inappropriate relationship between a high school teacher and a former student that occurred during the 2020-21 school year.
Mandatory reporters include healthcare professionals, law enforcement, teachers, and others who are required by law to report suspected child abuse and neglect.
The mandatory reporter provided information that there was contact between Hollenbeck and the student as far back as February 2021. Contact included text messages, social media, Facetime, and in-person messaging.
The mandatory reporter told police that the student would go to Hollenbeck’s classroom during a free third period, and he would lock the door.
Police confirmed that Hollenbeck was a teacher at EPHS during the 2020-21 school year and that the student attended the school until she graduated in May 2021. Police also confirmed that the student was in a class taught by Hollenbeck.
Police obtained electronic communications between Hollenbeck and the student, in which Hollenbeck talks about falling in love with the student and referring to the time they spent alone in his classroom during his off hour.
Hollenbeck and the student exchanged many texts and messages about being in love while the student attended EPHS, the complaint said. They messaged about meeting for walks and spending time in his classroom.
Hollenbeck also messaged the student recounting him touching and hugging the student on various occasions.
A search of Hollenbeck’s phone revealed that in September 2021, he searched websites to learn how to delete notes and social media messages and accounts.
During the investigation, experts in the child abuse field were consulted. They concluded that Hollenbeck’s actions were child grooming and that the grooming behavior would “be likely to (do) substantial harm to a minor’s emotional and/or mental health.”
If convicted of the gross misdemeanor account, Hollenbeck faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.
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