A former Tel Aviv middle school teacher was convicted on Thursday for the rape of a 12-year-old student.
Yotam Okon was convicted after he admitted his guilt in a plea deal that was arranged by prosecutors in consultation with the girl.
However, the two sides were unable to agree on sentencing and the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court will hold a hearing on the matter in April.
“The defendant admitted to committing serious sexual offenses and severely harming the minor, who was his student,” the victim’s lawyer Tami Klenberg-Levy said in a statement. “The family hopes that the sentence will reflect the serious harm done.”
In the meantime, the court ordered Okon to pay NIS 200,000 (approximately $64,000) in compensation to his victim.
The Walla news site said that Okon carried out some of the offenses virtually — making the girl perform sexual acts online — while other indecent assaults were carried out in person.
A gag order barred publication of many of the details of the indictment against Okon, including the name of the school.
According to the indictment, Okon carried out sexual offenses against a number of minors over a period of several months and was arrested in August after police corroborated the testimony against him.
The story came to light when one of the mothers at the Tel Aviv school came across a WhatsApp conversation Okon was having with her daughter in which the teacher asked the student to perform indecent acts, received explicit pictures from her and invited her to his home, the Ynet news site reported.
In addition to complaints that were then filed to police, several students at the school came forward on TikTok with stories about how Okon acted inappropriately around them.
Those allegations were made in response to a video posted to TikTok by 17-year-old Maya Landau. In it, she said “the teacher who gave me ‘special’ treatment in ninth grade has finally been arrested. If there is anyone else who went through something similar with him, please send me a direct message and we will go together to testify.”
Landau’s video garnered many responses from young girls corroborating her story, including one from a girl who said: “All the time, he would grab my belly fat and comment that my shirt was too short. Thank God he’s been arrested.”
“I saw a lot of such things that happened mostly with my girlfriends that he gave ‘special’ treatment to and behaved strangely and disturbingly,” another girl responded.
Speaking to the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Landau recalled how Okon took advantage of her several years ago: “I was 14, a little lost, still a teenager. Yotam saw it as an opportunity.”
According to Channel 13 news, Okon was fired from his job five months prior to his arrest, evidently due to similar allegations against him. However, the Education Ministry failed to pass along the relevant information to the police and the probe was only opened when several of the girls filed police complaints of their own. The school principal was questioned by police.