A former bus driver contracted by the State College Area School District was sentenced to six months to 23 1/2 months in Centre County Correctional Facility for having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student for nearly a year.
The State College Area High School resource officer received a complaint that Matthew Dunlap, 26, of Port Matilda, had been acting inappropriately with several students on the school bus in September 2016.
The Centre Daily Times previously reported the minor admitted to having intercourse with Dunlap three times at her home over the summer. She also told State College police they exchanged nude photos.
Dunlap texted the minor after his contract was terminated and told her to delete his information from her phone, including Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. He told her “not to tell anybody because he would get in trouble.”
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State College police Chief John Gardner, SCASD Superintendent Bob O’Donnell and former Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller hosted a news conference after Dunlap’s November 2016 arraignment, which was criticized by his attorney, Karen Muir, on Wednesday.
Muir said Parks Miller turned the arraignment into a “circus” and said there were shenanigans in “every sense of the word.”
Muir said the minor was not the only victim of the crime. She said felony charges are a heavy burden, the eight days Dunlap served at the CCCF were “devastating” and the incident “embarrassed him tremendously.”
“In the age of Google, these things don’t go away,” Muir said.
She finished her statement by asking President Judge Pamela Ruest to sentence Dunlap to six months on the in-home detention program before he rose to deliver a statement.
“The last 15 months haven’t been easy. I’ve lost jobs and friends,” Dunlap said. “I’m remorseful for my family and for the victim.”
Dunlap, who volunteered at the Centre County Grange Fair, also said he let community groups down.
“Matthew has a heart of gold,” his mother said. “Matthew is not a bad person. He just made a terrible mistake.”
Assistant District Attorney Michael Osterberg disagreed.
He said there was only one victim — the minor. Osterberg argued it was not two bad choices, but rather a cultivated relationship that took a considerable amount of time to build.
He said Dunlap knew the minor was in eighth grade, in part because the bus only carried middle school students.
“This is why we have a sex offender registry,” Osterberg said.
Dunlap’s sentence requires him to register as a tier two sex offender. He must participate in Project Point of Light, which is a program that “specializes in the assessment and treatment of sexual offenders, individuals with problematic sexual behavior and victims of sexual abuse.”
Dunlap is not allowed to have contact with the victim and may not use drugs or alcohol during the term of his sentence. He also received four years of probation, which is consecutive to the prison sentence. Two other counts brought a combined four years of probation, which is concurrent to the other counts.
Dunlap’s prison sentence is scheduled to begin April 2 at 9 a.m.
“In-home detention is not appropriate,” Ruest said.