Student record

WA teacher charged with sexual misconduct against student


A 40-year-old teacher from Washington Toppenish High School was arrested in Orange County, California on August 14, 2022. The woman had a warrant for her arrest in Yakima County, Washington.

A former Washington high school teacher is charged with sexual misconduct against a teenager and giving alcohol to other students, authorities said.

Bertha Cerna, 40, was arrested on Sunday August 14 in Orange County, Calif., according to prison records online.

A warrant for her arrest had been issued by the Yakima (Washington) County Sheriff’s Office on August 2, but it’s unclear if that’s why she was arrested in California.

Regardless, the former Toppenish High School teacher is facing charges of first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor and supplying alcohol to a minor, according to the Sheriff’s Facebook post.

An extradition hearing will be held on Tuesday, August 16 to determine whether she will be returned to Washington, the sheriff’s office said.

Cerna is accused of committing a sexual act with a 17-year-old student before he graduated from Toppenish High School, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported Aug. 2.

The investigation into Cerna and her husband, John L. “Johnny” Cerna, who served as the high school’s vice principal, began in June 2021, when a student reported that Johnny Cerna had an inappropriate online conversation with her, the Yakima Herald- Republic reported.

They were fired from their jobs. Public court records online do not show charges were brought against Johnny Cerna.

A student told investigators that Bertha Cerna offered him alcohol while she was at the teacher’s home, KVEW reported. Another former student and cheerleader said Cerna also offered her alcohol on several occasions, the outlet reported.

The Toppenish School District “does not have a statement as she is not an employee of our district,” a spokesperson told McClatchy News.

Toppenish is about 160 miles southeast of Tacoma.

Helena Wegner is a McClatchy Live National Reporter covering Washington State and the Western Region. She holds a journalism degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She is based in Phoenix.