Chaperone accused of assault on Duluth school field trip
A former University of Minnesota Duluth graduate student is standing trial in California on charges that he sexually assaulted a Harbor City International School student during a field trip to Death Valley in January.
Brice Robert Hansen, 30, was a student teacher for Harbor City and acting as a chaperone for the school during the field trip, according to Brian Dressler, the chief investigator for the Inyo County district attorney's office.
Hansen, who also served as assistant girls soccer coach last year at Two Harbors High School, is married.
The trial lasted about a week, with closing arguments finishing Tuesday, Dressler said.
The jury has begun deliberations, he said.
The Duluth Police Department conducted the investigation and one of the department's officers flew to California to testify, along with witnesses and the alleged victim, Dressler said.
Hansen declined comment through his Duluth attorney, Andy Pierce.
Pierce said Hansen is accused of having consensual sex with a minor, but Hansen says nothing inappropriate happened on the field trip.
"If Mr. Hansen did what he's accused of, then every person on that trip would have known about it," Pierce said. "The fact that on a 10-day trip on a campground no teacher or student saw anything remotely close to a criminal act makes it obvious this story is made up."
According to the complaint against Hansen, the field trip occurred between Jan.7 and Jan. 20.
A UMD spokesperson said Hansen was last enrolled with the school last spring.
Hansen also was a teacher for Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, which teaches environmental science and biology to grade-school students, according to assistant director Peter Smerud.
Smerud noted that Hansen was a grad student at Wolf Ridge before being hired as a teacher.
"He performed quite well in his capacity for Wolf Ridge," he said.
Asked about the case Tuesday night John Haire, director of Harbor City International, said only that "it would be inappropriate for me to talk about it."
The trip to Death Valley National Park was part of a three-week January seminar course offered at Harbor City International School last winter.
Led by advanced science teacher Margie Menzies, a group of 15 students visited the park for an 11-day camping trip to learn about earth science, according to information posted on a Math and Science Graduate Fellows in K12 Education page posted on the University of Minnesota Duluth's Web site.
Students kept field notes during the trip as they learned about plate tectonics, volcanism, rocks and minerals and other earth science standards, the Web site said.
Fellows from the University of Minnesota Duluth's GK-12 Fellowship program assisted the students on the trip.
According to minutes from a February 2008 Harbor City International Board meeting found online, Harbor City students were led on a similar trip in 2008.
Menzies could not be reached for comment.