Fayetteville Athletic Director Barry Gebhart resigned from his job on Friday (Oct. 25), according to Fayetteville School District Superintendent Vicki Thomas.
The resignation that was received and accepted by Thomas is effective immediately, according to a news release.
“We have taken every step available to us under Arkansas law to deal with this situation and have followed the procedures to the letter, including the Arkansas Teacher Fair Dismissal Act, “ Thomas said. “It is now a police matter, and we are cooperating with them fully.”
Benton County Sheriff’s Office deputies obtained a warrant to look through Gebhart’s work cell phone records, electronic tablet and other devices on Thursday (Oct. 24), two days after Gebhart’s arrest on suspicion of internet stalking of a child.
Gebhart was driving a sport utility vehicle owned by the Fayetteville School District when detectives arrested him in an underage sex sting operation set up at Pinnacle Hills Promenade mall on Tuesday night. Schools spokesman Alan Wilbourn said the vehicle was given to Gebhart to allow him to travel to sports events around the area.
Tuesday’s arrest involved a month-long investigation by the special cyber crimes task force, followed by a sting by deputies.
Deputies carried out the sting at a Dillards store at the mall. Gebhart allegedly circled the immediate area several times, stopping to look through the store windows, before halting the vehicle at a place where he believed he was set to meet with a 14-year-old girl. According to investigators, Gebhart connected with the girl through social media site, Whisper and sent her at least one inappropriate image of himself.
There was no 14-year-old girl, though. The Sheriff’s Office Cyber Crimes Unit had set up an account pretending to be a teen as part of its efforts to catch local sexual predators, said Keshia Guyll, public information officer.
When Gebhart stopped his vehicle to get out, deputies surrounded him and arrested him, according to a probable cause report filed in Benton County Circuit Court. Gebhart bonded out of jail the same day on $75,000 bond.
Gebhart had been the athletic director since 2009. He served as head boys’ basketball coach at Fayetteville High for almost 18 years, from July 1992 to March 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Gebhart’s annual salary was $101,917.72, records show.
The boys’ team won the state championship in 2009 after an undefeated season with Gebhart as head coach.
Gebhart graduated from Fayetteville High in 1981, then received a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Arkansas in 1985 and a master’s in technology from Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa, in 2008.
While investigating, detectives said they found many other online messages from Gebhart, including one that was sent to a girl in his class saying he could see up her skirt, according to an arrest report. Gebhart admitted to receiving nude photos, but said when they are of underage girls, he instantly deletes them, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The athletic director allegedly told deputies he sometimes uses online networking sites to meet up with women for sexual encounters. In one instance, he started talking to an underage girl, but stopped when he found out she was a student in his own school, deputies said.
Tuesday’s arrest is not the first time Gebhart has come under the attention of local law enforcement. Fayetteville police classified him as a victim in a domestic disturbance with his wife in 2008, according to police records. A police report states Gebhart’s wife “kicked him in the groin” and broke a chair over his arm after she believed he was looking at internet pornography. She was arrested on suspicion of domestic battery, domestic assault and endangering the welfare of a minor.
The couple’s two-and-a-half-year-old daughter was at home during the altercation that drew blood from Gebhart.
Here’s is Superintendent Vicki Thomas’ full letter to parents following Gebhart’s arrest:
Superintendent Vicki Thomas has released the following statement regarding the arrest of athletic director Barry Gebhart:
To our parents, guardians and friends,
As you may already be aware, today has been a difficult day for all of us at the Fayetteville Public Schools and in the Fayetteville community. Athletic director Barry Gebhart was arrested last night by the Benton County Police Department on suspicion of Internet stalking of a child.
Upon my notification of his arrest, Gebhart was immediately placed on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of the police investigation. We are fully cooperating with the Benton County Sheriff’s department in their investigation.
As a staff member and as a parent, I urge you to continue to be vigilant in watching over your children’s cyber activity. If you have any concerns regarding this situation, or any other internet safety issue, please contact our school resource officers at 445-1204 or 445-1205.
The safety of your children is of paramount importance to us. Any time there is a possible crime such as this, there is a concern for other potential victims. Anyone with any information should contact their local police department. The Fayetteville Police Department may be reached at 479-587-3555.