Former Grand Forks Teacher Sentenced in Sex Case; Says He’s Sorry for What Happened

The former Grand Forks Central High School spoke before the court before he was sentenced

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The fate of the former Grand Forks Central High School teacher charged with having a sexual relationship with a student has been decided.

James Whalen will be heading to prison.

It’s former teacher James Whalen’s face you see in the headlines…but as the state’s attorney reads a statement, it’s his victim that feels front and center.

“Nobody wanted to talk to me,” the state’s attorney read. “I felt exposed, like a car accident that everyone wanted to gawk and whisper, but nobody wanted to ask if anyone was okay.”

In January, Whalen pleaded guilty to sexual assault and two counts of corruption of a minor.

The judge handed him his punishment.

“It will be a sentence of four years with the North Dakota Department of Corrections,” the judge said. “Two years will be suspended. The defendant will be on five years of supervised probation.”

Whalen was charged with having sex with a student in rooms at the school, in his home and in his vehicle in 2015 and 2016.

His victim was a 16–year–old student for most of their four month relationship.

“I know I can’t fix all of these wrongs that I’ve done but at least I can show my remorse and my regret,” said Whalen.

“The defendant abused his position of authority,” said the state’s attorney in her closing statement. “The defendant was the adult and the defendant should have known better.”

Whalen will report to the Grand Forks County Correctional Center this Friday at 7 p.m.

He spoke before the court and said he hopes all involved can move forward, including his own family.

“They have been my beacon of light that’s keeping me going,” he said. “If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Family members who continue to stand behind him.

“Even the defendant’s wife in her statement blames the victim,” said the state’s attorney. “She states, ‘ the victim knew exactly what she wanted and waited to prey on Jim when his guard was down’.”

But for the judge, it was clear.

“The requirement is absolute that you cannot and should not have engaged in the relationship with the minor in this case,” he said.

Upon his release from prison, Whalen will be required to register as a sex offender.

“I’d like to offer my sorrow to the young lady involved in this case, her parents and her family,” Whalen said.

Whalen was also charged with criminal sexual conduct in Polk County, but that charge was dropped as part of the plea deal.

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