Ted Mueller

Kansas Mennonite congregant and college volunteer restricted after multiple Title IX reports, convicted of battery

In 2019, Ted Mueller (b. 1934), a former junior high school teacher and administrator in Grinnell, Iowa, and a long-standing donor and volunteer at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas, was charged with sexual battery and lewd conduct. Additional women reported to law enforcement after the arrest, and MAP learned of multiple incidents of sexual harassment, touching, and forcible kissing that had been reported in the previous 20 years to Bethel College and in the community.

Two previous reports had been processed through Title IX at Bethel College, in 2016 and 2017. College leaders had decided that Mueller’s actions, while Title IX violations, were not criminal. After Mueller’s arrest, law enforcement received reports from multiple former students, at least one of whom had reported a sexual assault by Mueller to the college more than a decade ago. The county prosecutor told MAP that if law enforcement had been able to investigate the case and had confirmed the facts, the actions reported by the student would have warranted criminal charges against Mueller.

Bethel College did not identify Mueller to the student body or the community prior to his arrest: not after removing his access to private data he used to harass a student in 2016, not after a Title IX determination of sexual misconduct in 2018, and not after banning him from campus in 2019. Law enforcement would typically help enforce campus bans, but they had not been made aware of the ban on Mueller until they subpoenaed information after his arrest.

In December 2018, Bethel College Mennonite Church (BCMC) leaders announced to their congregation that they had learned of an alleged assault (“sexual boundary violation”) by Mueller, who was a member of the church, as well as a history of complaints against him. Contrary to denominational guidelines, however, they instructed congregants not to discuss the matter publicly, and in written announcements, they did not identify Mueller.

In 2022, after lengthy court delays due to COVID-19 and multiple prosecutor changes, Mueller pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of battery and was sentenced to six months probation.

Detailed description

In October 2019, Ted Mueller was arrested in North Newton, Kansas and charged with two counts of sexual battery and one count of lewd and lascivious conduct as the result of an alleged assault in August 2018. After the arrest, at least eight more women reported harassment or assaults by Mueller. These reports were in addition to a handful of complaints women had reportedly made about Mueller prior to his arrest, going back at least 20 years.

Previous reports had been made to Bethel College by former students, including German exchange students. Mueller was a long-standing top-tier donor and volunteer at Bethel College, and both his wife and daughter had served on the college’s board of directors.

Two of the previous reports were brought through Title IX at Bethel College in 2016 and 2017, both by students alleging a history of sexual harassment by Mueller against student employees at Mojo’s, the independent on-campus coffee shop.

In one incident, Mueller had reportedly “stroked” the arm of a student and suggested she change her hair color to be more attractive to him. Mueller had also allegedly made comments to female employees “when they would bend down, things about them being on their knees” and “about [women’s] bodies and how they looked.” Prior to the 2016 Title IX complaint, Mueller had access to the college’s internal directory, and as reported to MAP by the coffee shop owner, he had shown a student employee a picture of her home and had asked her to confirm that she lived there.

After Mueller’s arrest, Bethel College president Jon Gering stated that the college “does not tolerate sexual violence in any form” and “has always supported victims and always acted with their best interest in mind.”

However, a former German exchange student reported to police after Mueller’s arrest that more than ten years ago she had told the college Mueller had forcibly kissed her, and the college representative had only told her to stay away from Mueller. Two former college employees confirmed this account to MAP. The prosecuting attorney in the current criminal case told MAP that if law enforcement had been able to investigate the case and had confirmed the facts, the actions reported by the student would have warranted criminal charges.

Additionally, in the 2017 Title IX case, the college had recommended in-person mediation between Mueller and a group of coffee shop student employees. The mediation was to be facilitated by a Bethel-affiliated organization, the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR), where Mueller was a long-time volunteer. To avoid conflict of interest, the facilitator would not be from the center’s staff — but would still be contracted to the center. The mediation would have put onus on the victims to “fully communicate the harmful effects of Mueller’s sexualized comments and actions.” Bethel later said the mediation “concluded at the request of the [reporting] student,” while the student said she declined to pursue the case further because she objected to Bethel’s recommendation:

They decided that they wanted to do mediation between me and Ted to talk about what happened. Just with my limited knowledge of Title IX, I didn’t think that was appropriate. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable talking to him even with the mediator, just because of the power difference.

After Mueller’s arrest, President Gering stated that Mueller’s actions in the Title IX cases “were not criminal.” North Newton Police Chief Randy Jordan said: “I don’t know how this could be going on so long and law enforcement not be getting involved. This isn’t criminal? I don’t know who made that call because, law enforcement, we were never involved.”

The college did not identify Mueller to the student body or the community at any point before the arrest: not after removing his access to private data that he used to harass a student in 2016, not after the Title IX determination of sexual misconduct in 2018, and not after banning him from campus and the coffee shop in 2019. Law enforcement would typically enforce campus bans, but they were not aware of the ban on Mueller until they subpoenaed information after his arrest. Nor did the college inform the owner of the on-campus coffee shop about the ban.

From March to August 2019, despite being banned from campus, Mueller continued emailing incoming German exchange students: “We give all arriving students an invitation to our home for an evening dinner when they arrive. We will soon wish to know from you which date you arrive here, so we can arrange to see you. We only live a few hundred meters from the college, so it is easy for us to get there and back.”

Bethel College had finally banned Mueller from campus after the campus church, BCMC, reported to them in December 2018 that he allegedly committed a “sexual boundary violation.” In keeping with denominational guidelines, church leaders reported the allegation to the congregation, where Mueller was a member. Contrary to denominational guidelines, however, they instructed congregants not to discuss the matter publicly, and in their written announcements, they chose not to identify Mueller. They further did not disclose, until after Mueller’s arrest, that he was under criminal investigation and that he was not allowed to participate in church activities because he had declined to sign the church’s limited access agreement.

In October 2019, prior to his arrest, Mueller visited another Mennonite congregation in the Western District Conference, and the pastor reported to MAP that the church had not received any official notice of the criminal case or that BCMC had banned Mueller from participation.

In November 2019, President Gering unexpectedly cancelled an interview with a Wichita television station. The station’s investigative reporter, Michael Schwanke, said that “the school still won’t answer any of our questions, nor will KIPCOR. … Bethel told us our questions were not relevant.”

Church-related positions

  • Member of Bethel College Mennonite Church, North Newton, Kansas
  • Volunteer at Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR), North Newton, Kansas, 2002–2019
  • President of the Board of Community Playschool, North Newton, Kansas, 2003–2016
  • Bethel College “President’s Circle” donor, 2015–2018
  • Husband and father of Bethel College Board of Directors members, 2007–2018

Scroll to Top