WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — A Dowling Catholic High School teacher turned herself in to West Des Moines Police Friday morning, following an investigation into an inappropriate relationship with a Dowling student.
Kristen Gantt, 36, is being held in the Polk County Jail on a felony charge of sexual exploitation by school employee and an aggravated misdemeanor charge of sexual contact by school employee. She taught English at the high school.
An individual contacted WHO 13 on March 20th and provided documentation showing social media conversations between Gantt and the student. We advised them to contact the police and Dowling High School to report their concerns.
The West Des Moines Police Department said they began investigating the following day, after receiving information about the possible relationship between Gantt and a 17-year-old male student. Their investigation revealed an inappropriate relationship had taken place on school property between Gantt and the student during February and March.
A criminal complaint filed in the case stated Gantt admitted to investigators that a physical relationship did occur between herself and the victim. The alleged physical contact happened in Gantt’s classroom after school hours on at least five separate occasions between February and March.
An application for the search warrant says Gantt and a student were in contact via personal emails, official Dowling-issued emails, and via Instagram dating back to December of 2022.
The application states the student had a hard home life and confided in Gantt, but emails of encouragement allegedly turned into messages via multiple platforms that investigators found concerning.
One of the messages, as stated in the application, shows the student sending a shirtless photo of himself to Gantt asking, “What do you think about this?” with her replying “I think you know.”
Another conversation presented in the application via Instagram shows the pair scheduling a meeting outside of school for yoga. A later message from Gantt said, “Thanks for coming.”
The application shows another attempt to meet outside of school to see the movie “Top Gun Maverick,” which did not happen due to the weather.
Other messages were displayed in the application, one of Gantt messaging the student “you look annoyingly good today.”
From the search warrant, West Des Moines Police were able to obtain journals, computers, a Fitbit, Kindle, and letters. Gantt’s Dowling desktop computer and laptop were also confiscated.
Dowling Catholic’s President Dr. Dan Ryan sent a letter to parents about the incident, stating that once they received information about the alleged relationship via an anonymous email – Gantt was placed on administrative leave. The school began an internal review and also said it reached out to the WDMPD to investigate. Dr. Ryan said Gantt will not return to Dowling.