February signals the mid-point of the school year and, in Texas, that halfway mark is marred by allegations of teachers who allegedly cross the line and engage in sexual misconduct with underage students, violating the trust placed in them to protect the state’s public school children.
In North Texas, on Feb. 19, Irving police arrested Irving High School teacher Farley Ashford Simon, 60, on two counts of Improper Relationship between Educator and Student, according to NBC DFW. Later, he was released on $50,000 bail. An unidentified 17-year-old female student alleged the two had sex — once, in a park in December over the break, and again on Jan. 9, in a motel after Simon picked her up from work. Although Simon admitted he took the girl to the park, he denied they engaged in sex. Police investigators found text messages on the girl’s cell phone and a photo of them having sex in a motel room.
The girl’s mother suspected a relationship and notified a school resource officer. Once Irving ISD opened their investigation, they placed Simon, a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) instructor since 2014, on administrative leave. On Feb. 22, Irving ISD responded, in part, to media inquiries about the situation: “Being on administrative leave prevents the teacher from working with students and being present on any Irving ISD property.” The investigation remains ongoing. Irving detectives do not believe Simon is sexually involved with any other students.
In Fort Worth, authorities arrested Alina Leung, 29, on Feb. 9. A sixth and seventh grade female teacher at Fort Worth ISD’s P.L. Dunbar Young Men’s Leadership Academy, an all-boys school, Leung faces charges of sexual assault of a child and an improper relationship between a teacher and student and one count of unlawful restraint for allegedly taking a 15-year-old student across state lines without parental knowledge, according to the Fort Worth Star Telegram.
Leung’s involvement was with only one boy. In late January, his father uncovered the questionable details on the family laptop where the teen’s Facebook page remained open. He read messages between his son and Leung leading him to believe she crossed that line. He then contacted the school’s principal who notified Fort Worth police.
The arrest warrant stated the alleged victim visited Leung in her classroom, grading papers for her with other students present. In October, the two began corresponding over Facebook and watching movies at her apartment. The suspect told the boy she wanted to wait to have sex with him until 2017 when he was of legal age but the boy pressured her. Leung is also accused of driving the boy to the University of Oklahoma where they toured the Norman campus during winter break. The teen claimed the last time the two engaged sexually was before MLK day. Explicit photos of Leung were on the boy’s cell phone, including one of her exposing her breasts and face.
In Houston, Nimitz High School soccer coach Eber Lopez, 35, faced a judge on Feb. 15 after being charged with having an improper relationship with a 17-year-old female student. Purportedly, the two met for sex more than 10 times — at a local motel and in the suspect’s car between Sept. 2015 and Jan. 2016. KHOU 11 (CBS) reported that investigators confirmed the relationship from explicit text messages, FaceTime calls, and photographs Lopez sent to the girl’s phone. Another student tipped off Aldine ISD administrators to the misconduct, although it remains unclear if Lopez ever coached the purported victim. Jailed and later released on $30,000 bail, Lopez signed a strict set of bond conditions, including agreeing to have no contact with the student. The judge gave Lopez a few weeks to hire an attorney before his next court date.
This week, Wise County officials arrested longtime Bridgeport ISD bus driver, Leonard Bradford, 42, charging him with five counts of indecency with a child and one count of possessing of child pornography. WFAA 8 (ABC) reported a district employee noticed inappropriate photos of young children on Bradford’s laptop computer on Jan. 26 and alerted local officials. A probe led investigators to a public city pool and events that happened when Bradford shuttled children to a city-run summer camp that used the district drivers over the summers of 2014 and 2015. Bradford told investigators he swam in the city’s public pool with 40 to 60 youngsters and admitted he purposefully rubbed his genitals on five girls. Police anticipate Bradford will be arraigned in March.
In a case Breitbart Texas reported on in August, a grand jury indicted former North Texas high school band director Michael Reddell, 38, on charges of sexually assaulting a child and having an improper relationship on Feb. 19. Last summer, police documents alleged the former Melissa ISD teacher began texting with a 16-year-old student in a situation that progressed to more explicit touching.
Conversely, on Feb. 17, a West Texas judge dismissed sexual misconduct charges against former Odessa high school teacher and swim coach Kathryn Maples, according to the Associated Press, citing a 2015 appeals court opinion stating the original law under which Maples was indicted was too broad and unconstitutional. That law was updated later. In 2013, Maples, then a 28 year-old Ector County ISD teacher, was indicted on three counts of an improper relationship between an educator and a student.
Texas scored an overall “B” in USA Today’s probe into how well states track educators convicted of misconduct but that comes into play after the fact. Although this inexcusable behavior reflects a small minority of the state’s educators, the number of reported cases climbed over the past seven consecutive years. The Texas State Senate Education Committee hopes to find solutions to end this disturbing behavior.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.