Ex-teacher facing sex battery charge

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SANDPOINT — A former Lake Pend Oreille School teacher is facing a felony charge for allegedly having sex with a student.

Nichole Noel Thiel is charged with sexual battery of minor between the ages of 16-17.

Thiel is free on her own recognizance and a preliminary hearing in Bonner County Magistrate Court is set for March 1.

Thiel had intercourse with the Bonner County teen at a condominium in Sandpoint in December 2015, according to a Sandpoint Police report. Thiel was 46 at the time and alleged victim was 16.

The alleged victim, now 17, disclosed the sexual contact to a counselor at Lake Pend Oreille High School in December 2016, which ultimately triggered an investigation by Sandpoint Police, court records show.

The teen told investigators that prior to the sexual contact, he had hugged to console a distraught Thiel, who was his culinary arts teacher at the time. She kissed him on the cheek and the contact was apparently investigated by school officials. The two began communicating through a social media application on their mobile phones prior to their sexual rendezvous, which occurred over Christmas break, the report said.

Thiel, a 48-year-old Coeur d’Alene resident, declined to be questioned by police after consulting with her attorney, the police report said. Her defense counsel, Coeur d’Alene attorney Michael G. Palmer, said on Wednesday he cannot comment on the matter.

Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall initially sought a statutory rape charge against Thiel, although Judge Debra Heise did not find probable cause to support the charge on Jan. 18, court records indicate. However, Heise found probable cause to sustain a charge of sexual battery on Jan. 20.

Marshall said the Legislature recently changed the rape statute to include female offenders and male victims.

“The alleged conduct in this case predates the July 1, 2016, statutory change,” Marshall said on Wednesday.

Thiel’s employment with the Lake Pend Oreille School District ended in June 2016, according to Superintendent Shawn Woodward. She’s a former employee of the Coeur d’Alene School District and was reportedly working at a Kootenai County charter school until she was placed on leave last month.

Thiel is a University of Idaho graduate and Fulbright scholar, according to her profile on LinkedIn. She has 12 years of classroom teaching experience and instructs students on teen living, leadership, fashion and career development.

If convicted, Thiel faces up to 25 years in prison.

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