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Vina teachers indicted for sex acts

LEFT: Sonny Tibbs. RIGHT: Brian Keeton.
LEFT: Sonny Tibbs. RIGHT: Brian Keeton.

The two Vina High School teachers arrested in November 2013 for allegedly having sex with two separate students were indicted by a recent grand jury, Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said.

Physical education teacher Sonny Dewaine Tibbs, 39, 525 Wakefield St., Hamilton, was indicted on two counts of being a school employee engaging in sex with a student.

Boys basketball coach Brian Scott Keeton, 41, 73 Lost Creek Lane, Carbon Hill, was indicted on one count of being a school employee engaging in sex with a student.

According to Rushing, the charges are a Class B felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Rushing said the indictments stem from separate incidents that allegedly occurred in the summer and fall of 2013.

Franklin County Sheriff Shannon Oliver said Tibbs was arrested on Nov. 8, 2013, after allegations surfaced that he had been having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old Vina senior for approximately six weeks.

Oliver said the sheriff’s office was made aware of the allegations after being contacted by the girl’s family.

Oliver said investigators questioned the 17-year-old girl before picking Tibbs up at his residence in Hamilton.

Investigators said Tibbs admitted to the relationship during questioning.

Oliver said the investigation revealed that Tibbs and the female student had kissed and sent text messages to one another while on school property, but no sexual activity had taken place on school grounds.

According to school officials, Tibbs had been employed as the P.E. teacher at Vina for several years.

Just five days after Tibbs’ arrest, Keeton was arrested on the same charges after allegations surfaced that he had been involved in a sexual relationship with a different 17-year-old Vina senior.

Oliver said the alleged incident did not take place on school grounds.

According to Oliver, the sexual act reportedly occurred in the fall of 2013 but the two have allegedly been talking on the phone and through text messages since the summer of 2013.

Oliver said the sheriff’s office was made aware of the allegations through the investigation of Tibbs.

“While our investigators were following up on the allegations against Mr. Tibbs, information came to light that indicated Mr. Keeton had also been involved in a sexual relationship with a different student at Vina,” Oliver said.

“Investigators looked into those allegations and collected enough information to make an arrest.”

Oliver said investigators spoke with the 17-year-old student before picking Keeton up at Vina High School for questioning.

Unlike Tibbs, who reportedly confessed to his ongoing relationship with a student, Oliver said Keeton denied the allegations against him.

According to school officials, Keeton was in his second year as a math teacher at Vina and his first year as the head coach of the boys basketball team.

Both Tibbs and Keeton officially resigned their positions with the Franklin County School System earlier in 2014.

Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said that 16 is the age of consent under Alabama law, but a bill sponsored by Rep. Demetrius Newton (D-Birmingham) and signed into law by Gov. Bob Riley in 2010 made it a felony for a teacher to have a sexual relationship with a student under the age of 19.

“Based on the position of trust that teachers have with the students they teach, the legislators obviously felt that the age should be raised to illustrate the point that a sexual relationship between a teacher and a student can have serious consequences,” Rushing said.

“By making the act a Class B felony, legislators tried to make it clear to teachers that entering into a sexual affair can cause many problems for not only the teacher and the student, but other students as well. The trust and respect teachers need to have in a classroom setting is lost at that point.”

Rushing said both cases would be set for arraignment hearings later this month.