Details were released in the investigation of LakeView High School Counselor Joseph Pitts, Jr (40) of Sturtevant, WI. According to a source, and later confirmed by KUSD spokesman Tanya Ruder, Joseph Pitts is on leave from his job as counselor at the high school.
The Kenosha Unified School District was made aware of allegations of misconduct on February 21, 2023, and an in-depth investigation was immediately launched. Pitts was placed on paid leave until the investigation concluded on March 20, 2023. Pitts was then moved to unpaid leave on March 21, 2023.
KCE learned that Pleasant Prairie Police was asked by the district to investigate if any criminal charges were warranted. According to the police report:
On Tuesday, February 21, 2023, the mother and father of “Jane Doe” came into LakeView High School Principal Bethany Ormseth’s office. They were there to notify the district that Pitts, Jr was having a romantic relationship with their daughter Jane, who had just turned 18. She graduated from the high school in June of 2022. Jane’s parents had learned that Jane was spending time at Pitts’ home in Sturtevant.
Jane’s mom started looking into the relationship between Pitts and Jane. She noticed on the phone bill that her daughter and Pitts would talk on the phone many times for hours when Jane was still 17 years old and a student at LakeView. The phone was Pitts’ personal cell phone. Jane’s mom confronted her about the relationship and she told her mom that she was in love with Pitts. Jane told her parents that the romantic relationship started when she turned 18, but her parents didn’t believe her. They think that Pitts “groomed” Jane. (Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust, and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit, and sexually abuse them.)
Pleasant Prairie investigators spoke with Pitts at LakeView High School. Pitts admitted to a current romantic relationship with Jane, but later said they were just “friends.” While Jane was a student, he said the two had a “unique thing” and “special bond” but denied any physical contact. He told investigators he never gave out his personal phone numbers to students, but did with Jane because of the “special bond.” He said he never planned on a romantic relationship, but it “just sort of happened” after she turned 18. He said they slept in the same bed, kissed, and touched each other’s genitals under the clothes, but didn’t admit to oral sex or intercourse.
Pitts and Jane exchanged letters at graduation that used the word “love” in them. Pitts told police their first time seeing each other outside of school was at a graduation party, and shortly thereafter, at Pitts’ home.
Police asked Pitts for consent to look through his phone and he declined. Police seized the phone but couldn’t go through it without a search warrant. Pitts gave conflicting stories during the interview. For example, he initially denied that Jane spent the night at his house in February, then said he didn’t remember, then said “yes.” Pitts was worried that people would think the relationship started when Jane was still a student but he said it wasn’t like that. Detective Hoffman asked Pitts if he really thought it was a good idea for a 40-year-old man to have a romantic relationship with a former student that just turned 18. Pitts went silent and never answered the question. Pitts said, “This isn’t what it seems like. Looking [back] at this back, I get how it sounds. It’s not. I never did anything with her until she was eighteen.” Pitts then stated, “It does not look good because we did talk a lot on the phone.” He then referred to
his phone and said, “And now, it’s going to look weird that, like there is no, everything is off of it, because I just recently was clearing all the stuff off of it.” Pitts was then asked when and if he had deleted anything off of his phone and he said “like today, cus the storage was all used up.”
Investigators consulted with DA Mike Graveley and ADA Drew Lehman and drafted a search warrant for the cell phone. Unfortunately, stopping the investigation in its tracks, and leading to the non-prosecution, Judge Jason Rossell refused to sign the search warrant, citing no probable cause.
Investigators spoke to Jane at the Pleasant Prairie Police Department. Jane was asked if she thought that Pitts was grooming her and she said, “During school? No. During the summer, like the month before I becuase an adult? I guess you could say that was special attention but at the same time, like…that’s a short period to groom someone.” Jane did admit to being at Pitt’s house while she was still a student. She saved his cell phone number into her phone as her cousin, so her parents wouldn’t know.
According to the report, KUSD is planning to “charge” Pitts with “texting students, grooming students of color, and switching absences for students.”
KCE doesn’t have any update on Pitts’ employment status.