Grand Traverse Academy Teacher Arrested
By Beth Milligan | Jan. 30, 2024
John Dirk VanPatten, a high school teacher at Grand Traverse Academy, was arrested Monday at the school after 16 felony charges were filed against him over alleged years-long sexual abuse of a former female student at another school in Emmet County. VanPatten has been terminated from Grand Traverse Academy effective immediately, Superintendent Michelle Floering tells The Ticker.
VanPatten, 51, previously taught at Concord Academy in Petoskey until 2019. He is facing 14 counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for sexual abuse of a student over a period of years at that school, according to Emmet County Undersheriff Matt Leirstein. The charges reflect the fact the student was 16 or younger, Leirstein says. The victim recently came forward to report the abuse.
All of the charges are related to one victim. "We have no evidence that there are other victims," says Leirstein. "Sexual predators will spend years grooming victims. While we don't have any evidence there will be other survivors at this point, we don't know if there aren't." Leirstein says the Sheriff's Office encourages anyone with information on this or any other potential cases involving VanPatten to contact the department at 231-439-8900. Survivors of sexual misconduct can also reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) for support. "We understand the courage it takes to come forward in situations like this, and we want to assure potential victims that their privacy will be fully respected," says Leirstein.
Floering emailed an update to Grand Traverse Academy families Tuesday on VanPatten's arrest, noting the "safety and well-being of your children is of the utmost importance" to the school. "No misconduct related to this warrant occurred on our premises, and the allegation does not relate to any member of our school community," she wrote. Floering said the school encourages "an open line of communication so that our students feel safe and empowered to share any concerns they may have. As part of our commitment, we have reminded our students that they may use the STOPit Solutions app to report any issues they encounter anonymously. Their voice will be heard, and their concerns will be addressed promptly."
Floering also addressed the school's process for vetting and screening new employees, saying it was "thorough, comprehensive, and compliant with Michigan School Code guidelines. We conduct fingerprinting checks for all prospective employees through the Michigan State Police CHRISS system (Criminal History Record Internet Subscription Service) which provides the criminal records of candidates, if any, for review. This step allows us to verify identities and cross-reference against databases for criminal history."
According to Floering, "CHRISS includes an ongoing subscription so we receive alerts if a current employee receives any charges and convictions. In addition to CHRISS, we utilize ICHAT (Internet Criminal History Access Tool) reports. These reports provide us with additional, detailed information about an individual's criminal record within the state of Michigan, including arrests, convictions, and pending cases. Furthermore, we request conduct forms from former employers as part of our screening process. This allows us to gather insights into the candidate's past performance, behavior, and any disciplinary actions taken during their previous employment."
Floering concluded her letter by writing that Grand Traverse Academy "takes safety measures and background reviews seriously, and we will continuously evaluate and update our procedures to ensure the highest standards of safety and security are maintained. Our commitment to diligence in background screening reflects our dedication to providing a safe environment for your children."
VanPatten is scheduled to be arraigned at 12:30pm Wednesday in 90th District Court in Petoskey, according to court records.Comment