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School psychologist shared student information that allegedly led to child’s rape, police say

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School psychologist shared student information that allegedly led to child's rape, police say

A Davis School District elementary school psychologist on administrative leave since August now faces a misdemeanor charge after investigators say she disclosed a student’s personal information that may have led to the student’s rape.

Natalie Stokes, 39, of South Weber, was charged Monday with one count of unauthorized collecting, sharing or use of private student data, a class A misdemeanor, according to online court records.

Charging documents say Stokes’ charge is connected to the case against her husband, 41-year-old Phillip Brandon Stokes, who was arrested and charged last August with a slew of felonies. Phillip Stokes faces 13 felony counts in Farmington’s 2nd District Court, including five counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, two counts of rape of a child and two counts of sodomy on a child — all first-degree felonies — among other charges.

Phillip Stokes also faces charges in Utah’s federal court, consisting of single counts of production of child pornography, coercion and enticement, according to federal court records.

In early 2021, members of the Davis County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI opened an investigation into someone they only knew as “Christian,” charging documents state. In March, police say that “Christian” began contacting an 11-year-old girl over TikTok, and by July, “Christian” told the girl to text him on another app. Within three hours of a conversation beginning, “‘Christian’ began to aggressively and persistently ask (the girl) for nude photographs of herself,” charging documents state. The girl sent photos, according to the charging documents, while “Christian” then sent photos of his genitals and other sexually explicit photos.

The text messages, which were reviewed by police, show that on the same July day, “Christian” persuaded the girl to meet him at a park. Judging from the messages, police believe the two had a short initial meeting at a park, but had a second, longer meeting at the park the same day.

“In the chats, ‘Christian’ made several comments acknowledging that sexual activity occurred during this second encounter,” charging documents say.

Police analyzed the photos from “Christian” in the text messages and noted in charging documents that one photo included the man wearing a T-shirt that had “a unique graphic and words on it.” Investigators later found the profile information for the account, and they discovered the account was accessed using a specific IP address, which they traced to Phillip Stokes, and Stokes’ address on his driver’s license matched that of the address from the internet provider, charging documents state.

Investigators allege that a photo that Stokes posted on social media featured him wearing an identical T-shirt with the unique graphic seen in the sexually explicit photos sent to the girl.

Phillip Stokes agreed to speak with police following his arrest on Aug. 2. He allegedly told police that he was behind the “Christian” persona and that he sent the nude photos while soliciting photos from the girl. Phillip Stokes also admitted to sexually abusing the girl on two occasions, according to charging documents.

During his interview with police, Phillip Stokes told police that he came to know the girl because his wife, Natalie Stokes, was the girl’s counselor at an elementary school, according to charging documents in Natalie Stokes’ case.

Police say he told them his wife had mentioned there was a girl having problems at the school, who had gotten into trouble, and he later learned that girl was on TikTok.

“I guess it started as just curiosity like … I wanna see what that is all about. And so … I looked up her videos and you know the rest,” Phillip Stokes told police, according to charging documents.

He had created his own TikTok account and searched for the girl “using the information he received exclusively from” his wife, charging documents state.

Prior to the assaults, Phillip Stokes told police that he and Natalie Stokes were walking in the neighborhood when Natalie Stokes pointed to the girl and “personally identified her as the girl she had been working with as a school psychologist,” charging documents state.

On the same day as Phillip Stokes’ interview with police, officers executed a search warrant on the Stokes’ home. Before the search, police spoke with Natalie Stokes and mentioned the girl’s name. Charging documents state Natalie Stokes was surprised and told police she was the girl’s psychologist at school. Officers asked if she had mentioned the girl’s name to Phillip Stokes, and Natalie Stokes then told police, “I have used her name. So he knows,” the charges state.

During a follow-up phone interview, police asked Natalie Stokes about the time she allegedly pointed the girl out to Phillip Stokes while walking in a neighborhood. Natalie told police that the girl was riding her bike and said hello to her, then she told her husband it was the girl she had mentioned who was getting into trouble at school, charging documents state.

Prosecutors allege that Natalie Stokes, a licensed school psychologist since 2007, has signed three separate documents regarding “privacy of student information” — in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Stokes allegedly acknowledged in the documents that she is obligated to keep student information confidential in accordance with federal and state laws, as well as with the Davis County School District. The alleged misuse of student information serves as the basis of her charge.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Davis School District said it had placed Natalie Stokes on paid administrative leave in August, immediately after the district was notified of the police investigation. She is prohibited from contacting students and staff while the case is ongoing.

With the charge now filed, the district is “moving towards termination,” according to the statement.

“The Davis School District’s goal throughout this process has been to protect students, and it will go to great lengths to do that,” the district said. “It has also worked with law enforcement representatives for months while the investigation continued.”

Natalie Stokes began working for the school district in 2003 as a teacher assistant for a half-year. She later worked as a school psychologist in 2007 and 2009, and she was later hired as a part-time school psychologist in 2017. She began as a full-time school psychologist in 2019 at an elementary school.

As of Wednesday, Natalie Stokes was not in police custody. Court records show a proposed summons to appear in court, though no court date is listed online.

Phillip Stokes is being held without bail at the Davis County Jail, where he has been since his Aug. 2 arrest, according to jail booking records. Phillip Stokes entered not guilty pleas in his federal and state cases in August and November, respectively.

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