Former Ecker Hill teacher sentenced to prison
A former Ecker Hill Middle School music teacher who sent hundreds of explicit emails to a student will serve up to 15 years in prison.
Derek Spitzer, 54 and last known to live in Salt Lake City, was sentenced last week to two one- to 15-year prison terms, to be served concurrently, after he pleaded guilty to two second-degree felony counts of enticing a minor.
According to charging documents, Spitzer sent approximately 500 emails, many sexual in nature, to a student at the middle school between October of last year and January. Spitzer’s actions came to light in January, when the student showed the emails to a school counselor.
The Park City School District contacted the police and put Spitzer, who had taught at Ecker Hill for 13 years, on leave. He was fired shortly after, following the district’s internal investigation.
According to court documents, Spitzer’s correspondence with the student became more inappropriate as time wore on. He initially asked the student to take part in a fictitious study on sexuality by the Kinsey Institute, offering the student $50 to participate.
Spitzer eventually solicited the student for sex and asked the student to accompany him on a trip to Las Vegas. Joy Natale, an attorney with the Summit County Attorney’s Office who prosecuted the case, said Spitzer used his position as a teacher at the school to groom the student, who looked up to him as a “beloved teacher.”
“For him to have taken advantage of that, as well as this (victim’s) youth, definitely requires him to serve prison time,” she said.
Spitzer was initially charged with four counts: solicitation to commit sodomy upon a child and solicitation to commit aggravated sexual abuse of a child, both first-degree felonies, as well as second- and third-degree counts of enticing a minor by Internet or text.
Court documents state that the nearly 200 days Spitzer served in jail while awaiting the conclusion of his court case will count toward time served. Natale said Spitzer will undergo mandatory sex offender treatment while in prison, and it’s unlikely he would be granted parole before completing it.
Natale added the investigation of Spitzer, who in the past served as a foster parent, unearthed no other similar instances of wrongdoing.
“As far as we know, this (victim) was the only victim,” she said.
Spitzer’s behavior sparked action from the district. In the wake of his arrest, many in the community wondered how the district had not caught his correspondence with the student sooner. The district had restrictive filters on internet usage, but would have had to specifically search Spitzer’s email to discover the messages.
Shortly after the case came to light, however, the district installed technology that flags inappropriate or malicious words in emails from faculty members or students.
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A district spokesperson said six students were removed from an area in the school as police conducted a search.