A veteran middle school teacher lauded for creativity in the classroom is facing six felony counts of unlawful sexual relations with students.
Keil Hileman, a 53-year-old former Kansas teacher of the year at Monticello Trails Middle School in Shawnee, Kansas, was arrested and remains in custody after being formally charged with the crimes on Oct. 26. The sexual abuse allegedly occurred between June 2017 and last month.
According to the Shawnee Mission Post, each of the charges allege Hileman engaged in “consensual lewd fondling or touching with a person 16 or more years old.” At least two victims were enrolled at the schools in which he taught.
Hileman, a teacher of 28 years, was known for his unique classroom, which was set up like a museum and housed thousands of artifacts. He was named the 2004 Scholastic Kansas Teacher of the Year and was a 2018 Lifechanger of the Year nominee. Hileman also taught a course for two high schools in the district.
Hileman’s recent and former students reacted to the news of his arrest with shock and dismay, as reported by Mill Valley News, a student-run news website of Mill Valley High School.
“At first, I really didn’t believe it. I thought it was a rumor started by someone who got a bad grade in the class or was just trying to be funny and so they started a rumor,” freshman Ian Weatherman said. “It was kind of shocking, because he was definitely not the person that seems like that. He was always really nice and supportive. He would do tutoring opportunities before or after school, so he would always, like, help and support kids. I didn’t really think it was in his character.”
Junior Emmy Esser described Hileman as a well-loved teacher who was known for inspiring students. The news of his arrest was especially troubling for her due to the personal connections she had.
“My initial reaction was to not believe it,” she said. “As a teacher I had for three years in a row, he really impacted my life. I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe in his class. … Like any bad news, it’s hard to believe that a teacher that everyone looked up to and trusted [could do this].”
Senior Ricky Kelley Padilla first met Hileman in elementary school and didn’t want to believe the news of Hileman’s arrest because he thought of the teacher as a “hero.”
“I’ve heard the rumors. When I heard the news, I wasn’t surprised, I was just disappointed,” Padilla said. “I was thinking, ‘That’s a good man but he’s making bad decisions.’ Hileman once said, ‘You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.’ I saw him as a hero.”
Court records indicate Hileman requested a public defender but his request was denied based on his financial assets. Modification to his $250,000 bond was also denied. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Nov. 16.
Unified School District 232 released a statement addressing the situation:
“The school district learned on October 26, 2022 the Johnson County District Attorney’s office issued charges against teacher Keil Hileman alleging criminal conduct pertaining to his role as an educator. We do not tolerate such misconduct and have acted as quickly as possible to protect and care for those involved.
“On October 6, 2022, the district was notified of the allegations against Keil Hileman and acted immediately to remove him from the classroom and school campus. He was placed on leave to allow the school district to conduct an administrative investigation. District investigators worked carefully, following laws and district policies, to avoid interfering with a concurrent law enforcement investigation. We are not privy to details of the ongoing criminal investigation but offer our full cooperation as needed by law enforcement.
“Mr. Hileman will not be returning to the school district. Due to specific timelines and procedures regarding personnel matters, the USD 232 Board of Education will take action on his employment at a future meeting.”
As reported previously by The Lion, the alarming frequency of sexual abuse in public schools cases has prompted some policy experts and lawmakers to sound the alarm.
“The basic fact is incontrovertible: Every day, a public school teacher is arrested, indicted or convicted for child sex abuse,” Christopher Rufo, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, told Fox News Digital. “And yet, the teachers’ unions, the public school bureaucracies and the left-wing media pretend that the abuse isn’t happening and viciously attack families who raise concerns.”