Former teacher takes plea deal

Varney sentenced to house arrest, probation for having sex with male student

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A former Williamsburg Community High School teacher who had sex twice last summer with a 15-year-old male student pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of institutional sexual assault.

Nikki Varney, 45, Hollidaysburg, rendered the plea in Blair County Court in exchange for a recommended house arrest sentence of nine to 23 months, followed by two years’ probation.

Judge Wade Kagarise directed the Blair County Adult Parole and Probation Department to supervise the house arrest sentence. No electronic monitoring device was requested as part of the plea.

District Attorney Richard Consiglio said Friday that he agreed to the house arrest sentence only because the student’s family supported it.

“The family wanted this because she has two children at home and they didn’t want her separated from them,” Consiglio said.

Neither the student nor the student’s family were in court for Varney’s plea.

Varney, accompanied to court by her husband, David, and represented by Altoona attorney Brian Grabill, said little while she stood before Kagarise.

The former teacher offered short answers in response to typical questions the judge presents to defendants. When Kagarise asked Varney if she wanted to say anything before sentenced, Varney replied: “No, thank you.”

Grabill advised the judge that his client, when confronted by investigating police officers, admitted to and took responsibility for her actions.

“She recognizes that what happened was inappropriate. … She has been remorseful,” Grabill said.

State police at Hollidaysburg began investigating in late August after being contacted by Williamsburg Community High School officials who learned of the incidents from the male student.

Police said the pair had sex at two locations in July, once at Varney’s residence and another time at Canoe Creek State Park.

Varney, who taught general science, chemistry and physics at Williamsburg, was initially placed on administrative leave after the allegations surfaced and submitted her resignation a few days later.

She’s no longer employed and won’t be able to teach again for the rest of her life, Grabill said.

Before the incident, Varney had been a teacher for 20 years, and Grabill said she’s likely going to lose her pension because of the conviction.

At Consiglio’s request, Kagarise ordered Varney to be evaluated by the state Sexual Offenders Assessment Board for a finding that could be the subject of a future court hearing.

Consiglio also said that he intends, after reviewing the state assessment, to seek an order requiring Varney to meet Megan’s Law requirements. They include regular registration of her address and related information with state police for posting on a statewide website.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.