Ex-Richmond-Burton High School teacher, track coach found not guilty again of touching student inappropriately

Ryan Carlson was cleared earlier of touching girl’s shirt, commenting on her clothes

Richmond-Burton High School

A former Richmond-Burton Community High School teacher and track coach was found not guilty Monday of inappropriately touching a student in 2022.

Ryan Carlson, 48, of Hebron had been charged with one count of battery, a Class A criminal misdemeanor.

Carlson was accused of touching a then-sophomore’s buttocks over her clothes Sept. 21, 2022, as she was walking from her desk to a lab station in his science classroom.

The girl took the stand Monday and detailed what allegedly occurred, saying that it made her “very uncomfortable” and that she “wasn’t expecting that.”

Afterward, she reported the alleged incident to a friend and a relative. The next day, she reported it to school administrators, and five days later, she was interviewed by a counselor at the McHenry County Children’s Advocacy Center.

The girl testified that she wasn’t sure anyone saw the alleged incident.

But a classmate also testified, noting he saw “out of the corner of my eye” Carlson touch the girl on her lower back above the buttocks area.

In closing arguments, Carlson’s attorney, Patrick Walsh, said the girl gave inconsistent accounts about the incident including whether it was a grab, grip or a touch.

He also played a recording of an interview with the advocacy center in which the girl said she “always had a problem” with Carlson.

In rendering his decision, McHenry County Judge Mark Gerhardt said, “There is reasonable doubt.”

He said of the nine to 15 other people in the classroom during the alleged incident that not one took the stand and corroborated what the girl said happened.

This included Carlson’s wife, who was working in the classroom that day and testified for the defense, Gerhardt said.

The judge also questioned why the police officer involved in the case did not question the other people in the classroom or Carlson.

In August, Carlson was found not guilty on separate charges of battery and disorderly conduct. This case involved another student eight months before the incident he is on trial for this week.

When Carlson was questioned by administrators after the alleged incident at the center of Monday’s trial, he responded that he had been “so careful to not physically touch a student, it is difficult to do my job,” Assistant State’s Attorney Ashur Youash said.

When Carlson took the stand Monday, Youash asked what he meant by this. Carlson explained that it is difficult sometimes to “maintain safe boundaries” with students when working and moving around in the lab.

In his ruling, Gerhardt addressed this statement, noting that Carlson also said this in the months after being accused in the other case.

In that case, Carlson was accused of acting criminally when he opened a student’s flannel shirt and commented on the gray sweatsuit she was wearing underneath.

The 30-second interaction, caught on video, occurred in a hallway at the high school about 7:30 a.m. Jan. 14, 2022.

Gerhardt also ruled on that case, and in his ruling noted that none of the teachers or students walking by appeared to be disturbed or alarmed.

Gerhardt also said he took into account witness testimony and the girl’s statements during the investigation, in which she gave varying details.

Carlson opted for a bench trial in both cases, meaning Gerhardt rather than a jury decided the verdict.

Carlson earlier resigned from his position in Richmond-Burton High School District 157.