HIGHLAND -- Police have arrested the seminary principal of Lone Peak High School on allegations he had several sexual encounters with a 16-year-old student. Police say the relationship may have been cultivated through the exchange of text messages.
Michael Pratt was a teacher and the principal of the LDS seminary in Highland. Students are allowed one hour of released time each day to attend religious classes, and detectives say that is where the 37-year-old husband and father became acquainted with the 16-year-old girl.
"The first part of May, the relationship escalated into a sexual relationship; many different types of sexual activities took place," said Utah County sheriff's Sgt. Matt Higley.
Even though school is out for the summer, detectives believe text messaging kept the relationship alive.
"There were a lot of sexually-explicit text messages sent back and forth between the two individuals. I don't know the specifics of those. We are waiting to get those from the cell phone companies," Higley said.
Some of the encounters took place inside a railcar at a park in Provo Canyon. Because Pratt allegedly took her away from class, he faces three counts of kidnapping.
"They left the school at least three times, and then they would go to various places: up Provo Canyon, places in the Alpine-Highland area, American Fork and also in south Utah County areas," Higley said.
Child welfare workers reported the alleged abuse to detectives just this week. Investigators say the victim was hesitant to cooperate at first, but has now given them specifics of the relationship.
As for Pratt, Higley said, "He had retained an attorney and been advised not to talk to us at this point."
It's a case that is leaving students, parents and colleagues in disbelief.
"You hope when you send your children to school, that they are going to be safe and those people who are teaching them are going to keep them safe," Higley said.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement Friday, saying Pratt has been terminated from his position at the seminary.
The statement adds: "The Church condemns abuse of any kind and expects the highest moral and ethical standards of its seminary employees." [CLICK HERE to read the entire statement from the Church]
Pratt will be in court next week, when charges are expected to be filed.