The small town of Benson, Minnesota is in shock this week after a well-respected elementary school teacher was charged with criminal sexual conduct after video footage allegedly shows him sexually abusing students in his classroom.
Roger Joseph Ebnet, a teacher for Benson Public Schools, was arrested Friday after Benson Police observed a video recorded on Dec 1 allegedly showing the Grade 2 teacher in his classroom with three different boys seated between his legs at various times throughout the day, according to KTSP. Each of the boys was 7 or 8 years old.
"The video shows Roger Ebnet sit up slightly and placing the boy’s hand under Roger Ebnet’s groin area," the criminal complaint alleges, stating that it appears Ebnet has the other children in the class close their eyes and face the other way while he committed this act.
In a similar incident involving a different boy recorded in the complaint, Ebnet was allegedly caught on video placing "the boy’s hands behind the child’s bottom and in front of his groin area." The accused then allegedly continued "to squeeze his thighs and make upward movements with his groin towards the child’s bottom."
The criminal complaint further alleges that there was a similar incident with a third child which took place on Nov 30. On this occasion, the video allegedly shows a child sitting between Ebnet’s legs, and Ebnet again squeezing his thighs together while holding the child’s hands. He then appears to forcibly put the child’s hands behind his back before placing his arms around the child’s chest.
"I went to school with Roger Ebnet. So did my son," an anonymous source told the Post Millennial. "We reside in the community. Mr. Ebnet is well known for being a lot of students’ favorite teacher, he was active in after-school programs including sports, and organized the yearly community celebration called 'Kid Day.'"
"To most in the town with a population of around 3,500, the horrific news of the alleged crimes was shocking, but my gut instinct always felt something wasn’t right with him," the local parent continued. "In my life of small-town living, I’ve found it’s usually the people who try the hardest to obtain outstanding reputations that have the most to hide."
The seemingly upstanding member of the community once helped the community win a contest with Target that brought a concert to the little town with a population of just 3,480. In this YouTube video, the alleged child sex offender can be seen describing how he inspired the small town community to rally together to win the national Give with Target contest and $10,000 for their schools.
This is not the first time the small town of Benson has been rocked by a child sex abuse scandal. In 2017, former hockey coach Bradley Christopher Alasker was arrested on a felony charge of soliciting a child through electronic media after being caught in a sting operation by an undercover special agent posed as an underage girl, local news at the time reported.
Another Benson man, Luke Adam Frank, is currently serving consecutive sentences for failing to register as a sex offender and for having sexual contact with two children, according to local news.
Benson Public Schools released a statement on Facebook following Roger Ebnet’s arrest.
"The Benson School District is aware of the pending criminal charges regarding Roger Ebnet, an employee of the School District. The School District takes the safety and security of our students very seriously and has been cooperating and will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement in its investigation. Mr. Ebnet is currently on paid administrative leave.
"This is the extent of the information the School District can provide about this matter at this time. All further data is classified as private or confidential pursuant to state and/or federal law."
Ebnet appeared in court Monday morning where his bail was set at $200,000 without conditions or $25,000 with the conditions of GPS monitoring, that he have no contact with the victims and that he stay away from both the victims’ homes and Benson Public Schools property.
According to court records, Ebnet will appear in court again on Dec 14.
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