Female teacher pleads not guilty to new sex charge

TACOMA, Wash. -- A former Tacoma high school teacher pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a new sex charge against her. In another new development, Meredith Powell nearly was cited for contempt by posting a 'thank you' to a student's Facebook page.

Tacoma police say after Powell's arrest in February on charges that the Lincoln High School math teacher had sex with three of her male students, a fourth teen saw the news and allegedly told his mother that he too had sexual contact with her.

Court documents say in early 2013, he asked for extra help to improve his grades. The student, "said he would do anything. The defendant asked, 'You'll do anything?' and reached over and unzipped his pants. She then allegedly said, 'This stays between us.' "

Powell's attorney questions the legitimacy of this new charge.

"Anyone can make a statement now and the burden is on her to show otherwise," said defense attorney Wayne Fricke. "So it's free game right now and we'll just have to deal with it."

Prosecutors say a Facebook page called "Free Powell" was allegedly set up by a student and Powell responded by posting, "thank you so so much." The judge considered whether that violated her no-contact order with minors. Instead he warned her not to do it again.

The district said it clearly violates their policy against social media contact with students.

"Not only is there supposed to be a no contact order with minor children, it was another violation of our policies and procedures because she was at the time still employed by us," said Shannon McMinimee, an attorney with the Tacoma School District.

The Facebook page was taken down, Powell resigned and surrendered her teaching certificate. The state superintendent's office says teachers are constantly warned about this whole issue.

"There are criminal laws, obviously," said Nathan Olson with the state supe of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. "But then there are also agency rules that say 'thou shalt not have a relationship with a student.' "