MINOT -- The superintendent and high school principal of the Sawyer Public School System in north-central North Dakota has been charged with three felony counts for having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy.
According to Minot police investigators, Charles Soper, 50, who lives in Minot, began contact with the juvenile using Grindr, a smartphone application designed for gays.
Soper and the student then met in late fall of last year and a sexual relationship began, said Minot Police Investigations Commander Dan Strandberg.
The relationship continued into the spring of this year, Strandberg said.
Soper is charged with luring a minor by computer, solicitation of a minor and human trafficking.
According to the criminal complaint, the boy made contact with Soper through the Grindr app in November 2014. According to a calendar the boy kept, he met Soper for sex 11 times, the last time in April. The encounters usually involved a third male.
Soper’s Grindr account name was “the doctor7.” The boy was able to identify the user as Soper from the Facebook account the man provided in case the boy’s parents took away his phone.
The boy told Minot police that Soper knew he was 15 and Soper told him not to tell the other sex partners because they would not agree to have sex if they knew his age.
The boy said Soper picked him up when he was able to sneak out of his parents’ home while they were sleeping and drove him to Soper’s apartment.
The boy told investigators he tried to end the relationship with Soper in late March or early April but that Soper continued to contact the boy, even learning a new Grindr account the boy created.
The boy’s parents contacted Minot police Saturday.
A search was done at Soper’s home with investigators seizing computers and other evidence.
Soper was arrested at the 70-student Sawyer High School about 20 miles southeast of Minot on Tuesday, police said, and is being held in the Ward County Jail.
His first court appearance was scheduled for today.
According to the school’s website, Soper has worked in Sawyer, a town of 350 people, since 2014. Soper is a Devils Lake native, a Devils Lake High School graduate and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Dakota.
He began his education career in the late 1980s teaching English and speech in Walhalla and also taught at Fort Totten.
After Soper earned his master’s degree from UND in 1996, he became principal in Beach in far western North Dakota in 1997 and was later promoted to superintendent.
He then moved in 2002 to Colorado, where he was superintendent for nine years in the Park County and Lamar school systems.
School board President Cody Roleliuk said Tuesday night that the Soper has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the case. She said the board had not met yet to decide if it would be a paid leave.
She said the board would have no comment on the case.