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Proctor teacher charged with sexually assaulting former student

The longtime educator and basketball coach allegedly exchanged emails and gave rides to the victim, steadily escalating the sexual abuse before trying to coerce the girl into remaining silent.

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A Proctor middle school teacher and longtime basketball coach sexually assaulted a former student "multiple times a week over the course of a year" and threatened to kill himself if she told anyone, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday.

Todd Robert Clark, 51, was arraigned in State District Court on three felony charges stemming from the alleged abuse of the victim, who was 15 and 16 years old at the time.

Clark has taught at area schools for more than two decades, most recently as an eighth grade algebra teacher at A.I. Jedlicka Middle School in Proctor and previously as a middle school math teacher at Marshall School in Duluth.

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Todd Robert Clark

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The 1988 Proctor High School graduate also spent 20 years coaching high school varsity boys basketball. He served 13 years as head coach at Marshall before resigning in December 2011 , and then for another seven seasons at the helm in Proctor, where he stepped down in April 2019.

Duluth police first began investigating on Aug. 10, when another middle school teacher reported that the now-adult victim had told her of a "sexual relationship" with Clark several years earlier, according to the complaint.

The victim then told investigators that when she was 15, Clark began "touching and kissing her." She said that had occurred about twice a week over the course of a year, the complaint states.

PREVIOUSLY: Proctor teacher arrested on suspicion of sexual assault The suspect is in the St. Louis County Jail and awaiting formal charges.
The victim said she felt "OK with the touching at the time," but was having difficulty keeping their relationship a secret and wanted to report the incidents. But Clark had told her to "keep things the same," and said he would not be able to live with himself and asked for time to say goodbye to his family, according to the complaint.

Police soon thereafter were called to Clark's Vinland Street residence, where medical staff treated him and transported him to a hospital after an apparent diabetic emergency that authorities suspected may have been a suicide attempt.

In a follow-up interview, the victim told investigators that she and Clark began emailing frequently in the summer after she was in his eighth grade class. According to the complaint, she said Clark later began giving her rides to friends' houses after school and gave her his phone number so they didn't have to communicate via school email.

In the summer after her ninth grade year, Clark began meeting the victim at a local restaurant and giving her more frequent rides, the complaint states. On one occasion, he allegedly gave the victim a hug and then kissed her, and later on began rubbing his hand on her thigh. Over time, the touching escalated, according to the charges.

"I really didn't know how to feel," the victim reportedly told investigators. "I'd never done anything like that ever before and remember asking myself why it wasn't a good feeling, and why my body wasn't doing what it was supposed to do by making me feel good."

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Proctor boys basketball head coach Todd Clark watches his players go through a drill at practice Feb. 23, 2015. Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune

Authorities said the abuse continued on later car rides, with Clark having a process of pulling into a drive-thru car wash and putting the sun visor down to hide his face while he sexually assaulted the victim.

The victim reportedly told police she was becoming increasingly concerned, noting they may have been seen on camera together at one point outside another teacher's house and that there were later some incidents inside Clark's classroom.

Clark, according to the victim, eventually told her that the sexual activity needed to stop because he felt guilty when he went home to his family at night.

Clark was arrested at his home on Tuesday, just a week after the conduct was first reported to authorities. A forensic review of evidence, including the victim's cellphone, was said to be ongoing as of the filing of the complaint.

However, police said a preliminary review showed that Clark sent numerous messages indicating he would end his life if she reported their relationship. On one occasion he allegedly wrote: "Even an accusation of improper behavior ruins a teacher's career. My future is in your hands."

Clark is charged with first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct and first-degree witness tampering.

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If convicted of the top charge, a first-time offender faces a presumptive prison term of about 12 years under state sentencing guidelines. That was the sentence handed down to another area teacher, Karla Winterfeld , under similar circumstances in 2018.

Judge Shawn Pearson set Clark's bail at $100,000 with conditions or $150,000 without.

Proctor Superintendent John Engelking told the News Tribune this week that school officials were cooperating with the criminal investigation and that Clark "is not working for the district."

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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