LHS secretary arrested on charges of sexual abuse of a minor

By Kristy Tallman

On Feb. 2, Jennifer R. Burton, a 52-year-old health secretary at Lebanon High School (LHS), was arrested by the Albany Police Department (APD) on charges of second degree sexual abuse of a minor and second degree online sexual corruption of a child, both of which are classified as class ‘C’ felonies.

APD took charge of Burton’s arrest, Public Information Officer Laura Hawkins citing a conflict of interest with the Lebanon Police Department (LPD).

According to court documents, the charges against Burton date back to the period between Sept. 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2018, in Linn County. The first charge, second degree sexual abuse of a minor, alleges that Burton, then over 21 years of age and an employee of a school with direct responsibility for student instruction, unlawfully subjected a male under the age of 18 to sexual intercourse.

The second charge, second degree online sexual corruption of a child, asserts that during the same period, Burton, being 18 years or older, knowingly used online communication to solicit a child for sexual contact or sexually explicit conduct, with the intent of gratifying her own sexual desires.

Burton was released from custody as of Feb. 5, with her next hearing scheduled for March 4. Conditions of her release include restrictions against contacting the defendant or his family, as well as prohibitions from accessing schools or parks and from interacting with minors.

School District Responds

While the case unfolds, Lebanon Community School District (LCSD) has taken steps to address concerns and ensure the safety and well-being of its students.

“Ms. Burton is currently an employee on administrative leave. Any process related to personnel matters is confidential,” LCSD Director of Communications Susanne Stefani said regarding Burton’s employment status since her arrest.

According to Stefani, Superintendent Jennifer Meckley became aware of the situation on Jan. 4, 2024, after receiving a tip regarding Burton.

“The superintendent immediately contacted law enforcement and put the employee on administrative leave, on which she has remained since,” Stefani said.

Stefani stated that prior to this incident, there have been no other complaints or disciplinary actions against Burton of a similar nature during her tenure with Lebanon schools. However, information regarding such incidents is also protected employee information.

“In light of these developments, LHS staff have been equipped with information to address student inquiries and emotions,” Stefani explained. “Our professional school counselors and on-staff mental health therapists are also available to support students who may need assistance.”

Stefani stressed the importance of community involvement, urging anyone with information relevant to the case to come forward.

“Parents and caregivers are encouraged to report any concerns to school district administrators or the police to facilitate formal investigations aimed at ensuring the safety of students and the community,” she said.

Regarding rumors circulating within the community, Stefani clarified that the District had not received prior reports of misconduct involving Burton. She underscored the legal obligation of district staff to promptly report any suspicions of child abuse or misconduct.

“LCSD adheres to state law and district protocols when handling allegations of sexual misconduct involving children,” Stefani affirmed. “We follow the law (ORS 339.388), ensuring due process and compliance throughout such investigations.”

As the legal process unfolds, LCSD stated they remain committed to transparency, safety and the well-being of its students. LHS is cooperating fully with law enforcement and encourages anyone with additional information to come forward.