A middle school orchestra teacher at Hamilton Southeastern Intermediate School in Fishers, Indiana, appears to have sent sexually suggestive private Instagram messages last summer to a student currently at Hamilton Southeastern High School.
A concerned parent sent a screenshot that he claims shows an Instagram private message conversation between a Hamilton Southeastern Schools student and teacher Ben Yoder, the middle school orchestra teacher. The Daily Signal is not naming the student to respect his privacy.
The Daily Signal has been unable to independently confirm the accuracy of the screenshots, or that the Instagram account belongs to Yoder and is not an impersonation.
In the messages, which have been reviewed by The Daily Signal, Yoder asks the student, an incoming senior in high school, when he would be out of school and suggests the student get “in trouble” with Yoder. When the student asked what Yoder meant by “trouble,” Yoder responded, “Let your imagination run wild I guess lol.”
The message session, occurring before and on Aug. 8, 2022, took a sharp turn when Yoder asked the student if he was “out” of school yet.
After the student responded that he had one year left, Yoder replied, “Well good to know. I guess it’s not time to invite you to get in trouble quite yet lol,” following up with, “I’ll do my best to wait haha.”
The student asked Yoder to describe what “trouble” meant.
Yoder responded, “Hahaha I’m not sure about that. Let your imagination run wild I guess lol,” followed by: “Trouble is pretty much whatever you want to make it lol.”
The Instagram account, which has the handle @bennyboobooboo, has been posting photos of Yoder with his students for several years, and appears to be owned and operated by Yoder.
A Twitter account containing years of pictures and disturbing tweets, deleted in April of 2022 after I reviewed and reported on his behavior, also used the handle @bennyboobooboo. The Instagram account has also posted pictures from an account that appears to be his personal Facebook:
Yoder is a 37-year-old orchestra director, who has taught at Hamilton Southeastern Intermediate School for 13 years. He is a 2007 graduate from Ball State University with a bachelor’s in music education, and was featured in an alumni article titled “In Tune With His Students” in 2017.
Yoder has not responded to The Daily Signal’s email request for comment. The Daily Signal has reached out to the student who received the messages from Yoder, using a phone number associated with a Facebook account believed to be the student’s, but has not heard back.
Dawn Lang, president of the Hamilton Southeastern Schools board, told The Daily Signal that neither she nor any other member of the board was aware of this incident, but that they would look into it immediately.
Emily Abbots, Hamilton Southeastern Schools’ director of school and community relations, provided this comment to The Daily Signal:
We received information regarding this situation late Wednesday afternoon via HSE Report It!, the district’s anonymous mobile reporting app.
We believe strongly in protecting the safety and well-being of our students and that includes investigating any concerns brought to our attention.
To preserve the integrity of this investigation and protect the privacy of those involved, it is our district’s practice to refrain from publicly discussing these matters.
Upon receiving the message from the concerned parent, I contacted the police department that serves Hamilton Southeastern Schools to fulfill my role as a mandatory reporter. The Fishers Police Department has informed The Daily Signal: “[We are] aware of the incident, and we are looking into it.”
This isn’t the first time that Yoder has been the center of controversy.
After Yoder was elected vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association in early 2022, social media posts attached to accounts believed to be Yoder’s showed a disturbing history of racist and sexually charged statements that deeply concerned parents. I first reported on those statements last April while writing at Chalkboard Review.
Social media accounts believed to be Yoder’s contain instances of his dressing in drag and taking pictures with his students on several occasions, calling other men “Daddy,” bragging about gay sex, and making other lewd posts one usually doesn’t expect from a teacher.
Yoder had already been employed for two years by Hamilton Southeastern Schools when there were tweets on an account believed to be his about looking for gay sex during a traffic jam and spending all night in gay strip clubs.
The Twitter account @bennyboobooboo was deleted the day following Yoder’s resignation as vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association (after he held the position for less than a day).
Yoder is also an LGBTQ+ advocate in education, praising posts like those encouraging students to create buttons that display a student’s chosen pronouns over the transgender, asexual, gay, and demisexual flag backgrounds.
Yoder has not responded to an emailed request for comment from The Daily Signal. Previously he had not confirmed or denied the social media posts or accounts cited above, but did resign as vice president at the Indiana State Teachers Association after parents raised concerns over tweets from @bennyboobooboo.
As a former teacher, I cannot fathom the consequences that would be instantly and ruthlessly leveled at me if I had ever sent a series of messages like these to any of my students.
Psychologist Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D., found the messages to be disturbing as well, indicating patterns of worrisome behavior.
“Psychologists agree that in almost all cases, parents should be the primary authority in a student’s life. For a teacher to step over that boundary could be very harmful—especially if that secret communication is of a possible sexual interest,” Carmichael, author of “Nervous Energy,” told The Daily Signal.
Carmichael drew attention to two messages from Yoder in which he stated he would “do his best to wait” in inviting the student to “get in trouble.”
“As a psychologist, I would speculate that [this] means that the teacher is indicating that he’s not supposed to move forward right now, otherwise why would he wait? He’s also saying he’ll do his best to wait—but it’s not a certainty that he will,” the psychologist said. “He appears to be undermining a sense of safety and stability of boundaries with a statement like that.”
She suggested that ending almost every statement with “haha” or “lol” indicates that Yoder finds boundaries between a teacher and student to be a joke.
Similar incidents across the United States in the past several years have drawn concerns over “grooming” behavior in schools.
The Daily Signal will continue to report new information as this situation develops.
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