Testimony is set to begin Tuesday morning in the trial of a former Midway Independent School District educator charged with having an improper sexual relationship with a student.

Michael George Benns, 39, is on trial in Waco’s 54th State District Court, charged in a three-count indictment with sexual assault of a child, improper relationship between educator and student and indecency with a child by contact, all second-degree felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors Sydney Tuggle and Will Hix and defense attorney Michael Dahlenburg spent Monday selecting a jury to hear the case. Attorneys will give opening statements at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Benns worked as a teachers’ assistant at the Midway Alternative Education Center, where he had worked since December 2014.

In February 2015, he was placed on unpaid leave after police launched an investigation into allegations he had a sexual encounter with a 16-year-old Midway High School student.

School officials fired Benns a month later after Waco police reported Benns and the girl had a sexual encounter in January 2015 at a downtown parking lot.

The girl’s mother reported the alleged incident to police.

Midway school officials said Benns knew the girl before he started work at Midway.

Midway ISD Superintendent George Kazanas said at the time that Benns “came with strong references from youth organizations in the community.”

“He also came to us already with a prior connection to a young lady who now is no longer a student at Midway High School,” Kazanas said. “Due to this prior connection, an inappropriate relationship occurred outside of school hours and off-campus. We will continue to work closely with law enforcement officials to maintain a safe and healthy learning environment for our students.”

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