NewsCrime and Courts


Former Great Falls teacher charged with sexual abuse of children

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William Harning charged with sexual abuse of children
Posted at 3:54 PM, Sep 19, 2023

William James Harning, a former teacher at Great Falls High School, was charged recently with sexual abuse of children after law enforcement officers reportedly found pornographic images of children on his phone.

Court documents state that the principal at Great Falls High School contacted the Great Falls Police Department in December 2021 to report that Harning had sent an "inappropriate picture of Harning's penis" to a 17-year old student; Harning's face reportedly could be seen in the photo.

Later that day, GFPD detectives contacted Harning in his classroom during his prep period, and obtained a search warrant for his phone. The court documents state that "due to a heavy backlog of devices," Harning's phone was not searched until May 2023, and the results were provided to a GFPD detective.

State explains backlog in investigating abuse cases involving electronic devices

The detective noted "numerous" sexually-explicit images of children between the ages of 5 and 17 years old, along with self-produced sexually-explicit images of Harning.

Harning was formally charged in Cascade County on August 31, 2023, with six felony counts of sexual abuse of children.

Great Falls Public Schools superintendent Tom Moore told MTN on Tuesday that the district took immediate action upon learning of the incident, placing Harning on administrative leave. Moore said Harning resigned and did not return to the district.

Moore said the district turned all of its information over to the Montana Office of Public instruction for investigation and Harning’s teaching license was subsequently revoked.

We will update you if we get more information.