A Tennessee high school teacher recognized as "teacher of the month" last year was charged last week with aggravated statutory rape after a months-long investigation into her "inappropriate physical contact" with an underage student.
Tenth-grade geometry teacher Casey McGrath, 28, was suspended with pay from her job at Chattanooga's Central High School in April while authorities investigated alleged "inappropriate physical contact with a student that does not result in harm" of a "sexual nature" on May 1, 2022, according to the teacher's personnel file reviewed by WTVC.
An August 14 indictment obtained by WTVC accused the teacher of "unlawfully and knowingly engag[ing] in sexual penetration with a person of at least 13 years of age, but less than 18," noting that she is "at least 10 years older than the victim."
McGrath has been released from jail after posting $10,000 bond; she will reappear in Hamilton County Criminal Court on September 6 for her arraignment.
The teacher, who had also worked at nearby East Ridge Middle School, according to her personnel file, was elected by Central High School students as "teacher of the month," according to an article in the school's newspaper that has since been removed from its website.
Although it was difficult to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic, McGrath told her student interviewer, the best part of her day was "getting to interact with students and build relationships with them."
Every school year, she said, she hoped her "students [would] believe in their own capability to do math" and "know [that she] care[d] about them as a person, not just a student."
McGrath also volunteered as an assistant volleyball coach with the school, telling the student newspaper that "being able to spend time with students in a non-academic setting [gave] her the chance to get to know them even more."
A student told the newspaper that McGrath was a "very kind teacher" who "took her time and made sure [he understood] what [he] was being taught during a difficult time for everyone (the start of the pandemic)."
"She's a very involved teacher," the high school junior said. "I can tell she respected her students, which makes me have respect for her in turn."
McGrath majored in mathematics at Lee University before getting her master's degree in secondary education for mathematics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, according to the student article. As of its publication in October 2021, she had taught for five years total, previously working at McGavock High School, and had been at Central High for two years.
Central High School administration could not be reached for comment at press time.
Aggravated statutory rape, a class D felony, is punishable by two to 12 years in prison, under state sentencing guidelines.