SEWARD – Monday morning, in Seward County District Court, former Centennial superintendent Tim DeWaard, 57, was sentenced to one year in prison for attempted felony child abuse.
The charge initially began as felony child abuse and was later amended as part of a plea agreement.
DeWaard was accused of abusing a student. He was arrested last July and shortly thereafter resigned from his position as school superintendent at Centennial, a position he had held since 2007. Prior to serving at Centennial, he was a school administrator in Eustis-Farnam, Valentine and Tri County schools.
The victim told investigators DeWaard asked for shirtless photos over Snapchat. The teenager said DeWaard would have him sit on his lap and touched his inner thigh while in his locked office.
During sentencing proceedings, Seward County Attorney Wendy Elston told the court she believed incarceration was necessary.
“The state will advise that probation is not appropriate,” Elston said. “This is a severe violation of trust which makes it most egregious in society. The defendant was in a position to know the impact of his selfish decision on this child. He was educated about abuse. He was also aware of the law regarding grooming. And when a person in such a position of trust violates that trust, it makes it even worse in society. The court cannot condone that behavior, society cannot tolerate that behavior. The impact on this juvenile has been great, he has psychological trauma and scars. He has reported that he doesn’t want to go to school and has had flashbacks when going into the physical building. He no longer has a normal school environment. Further, the court needs to look at the defendant’s behavior – he was advised by administrators that he was over-stepping his bounds. He knew what he was doing was wrong. They were talking by phone and then he advised it (the communications) be moved to Snapchat. They were leaving the school grounds. People in that position should know better. I understand the defendant’s psychological evaluation placed him as low risk to reoffend because there were not multiple victims, but it is still a concern. General probation will not solve this issue. We are asking for incarceration.”
DeWaard’s attorney, Nancy Peterson, said to Judge James Stecker, “This man’s life until a year ago was defined by faith and service. He dedicated his life to serving his communities, his schools, to serve his church, to demonstrate how a man should walk through life. How he completely blew that up is very hard to understand. It really is incomprehensible. I think what was a good faith effort to help this young man, who already had mental health issues, exceeded the permissible boundaries. He carries great grief and he knows his actions, while he tried to help, ended up hurting. On his behalf, I apologize to the victim, his family, the community. If the court chooses to place him on probation, it doesn’t mean the court condones his behavior. Mr. DeWaard needs to continue working with his therapist. He can continue to be monitored and he can demonstrate that this event does not define him. We sincerely are asking for probation.”
DeWaard did not speak on his own behalf.
“You are 57 years old, with a master’s degree,” Judge Stecker said to DeWaard. “You have no prior record. The nature of this offense is essentially third degree sexual assault of a minor. You engaged in grooming behaviors and you took advantage of a vulnerable minor. You do show remorse. The court cannot ignore you abused the authority of your position. The court does note there was no penetration but sexual contact only. The circumstances indicate you understood the consequences.”
Judge Stecker sentenced DeWaard to one year of incarceration to be served with the Nebraska Department of Corrections with credit for no days already served. Once released from prison, he will be under post-release supervision for 12 months.
He will not be required to register as a sex offender, as this conviction does not qualify for such.
Following sentencing, DeWaard was taken into custody by the Seward County Sheriff’s Department for commencement of his sentence.