North Side teacher accused of sexually assaulting student avoids prison with plea deal

A former Senn High School teacher who admitted to having a sexual relationship with one of his students has avoided prison by reaching a plea deal with prosecutors.

Joel Ewing, originally charged with criminal sexual assault by a person of authority or trust, pleaded guilty to a lesser count of aggravated battery in exchange for two years probation. The Sun-Times reported that the victim, now a 24-year-old woman, agreed to the plea deal.

Joel Ewing | CPD; Wikicommons

Prosecutors said Ewing began texting “romantic” messages to the victim when she was a 15-year-old student at the Edgewater school, where Ewing was her teacher and theater director. He had sexual contact with the victim for at least two years beginning in 2016, according to the initial allegations.

In 2018, the woman told a therapist about what happened. She later filed a report directly with Chicago police in July 2019 in part because he continued to work with children, prosecutors said.

Judge Steven Watkins sentenced Ewing this week and “noted to Ewing that he would not have given that sentence without the victim’s OK,” the Sun-Times reported. Ewing is also required to perform 30 hours of community service.

Ewing resigned from CPS after police began investigating the victim’s complaint. Even though Senn’s administrators knew about the ongoing investigation, they called his departure “bittersweet” and told the school’s community he and his family were “leaving Chicago to pursue a new opportunity.”

About two weeks later, after prosecutors announced charges, the school’s principal said Ewing had been “removed” from the school two months earlier after administrators were told about the allegations against him.

CPS called the tone of the first email “inappropriate.”

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Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. He can be reached at