Families at one Texas middle school were shocked to learn their principal was arrested for the alleged online solicitation of a minor. The news saddened a community where students looked up to their school’s top administrator.
On Monday, Burnet Middle School Principal David Dean, 35, was arrested and charged with the online solicitation of a minor, a second-degree felony. Online records at the Travis County Jail show Dean remains in custody on a $70,000 bond. The charge was the result of a joint investigation between the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office and the Texas Attorney General’s office. No details about allegation was released.
Details about the online solicitation have not yet been released by the Montgomery County District Attorney, according to Montgomery County Police Reporter’s Scott Engle.
The Austin Independent School District placed Dean on administrative leave without pay, effective immediately, according to Superintendent Paul Cruz. “We do not have reason to believe that any Austin ISD students were involved,” he wrote in a letter to Burnet Middle School families. The correspondence stated school district officials will hold a meeting on campus, 6 p.m., Tuesday, to inform parents of their plan for campus leadership.
“Austin ISD takes this situation very seriously, and we are committed to keeping you informed about this case within the limits of the investigation,” the letter read.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, Dean, 35, began working for Austin ISD in 2006 at one its elementary schools. He later served as assistant principal at Highland Park and Hart elementary schools from 2008 until 2013, where he was promoted to principal in 2013. Dean moved to Burnet, serving as interim principal from June 2015 to March 2016, after which he was hired permanently. The news of Dean’s arrest caught parents and students off guard.
Parent Kenyatta Quinton told Austin’s KEYE TV (CBS) she was saddened to learn about Dean’s arrest, something she never expected from the middle school’s new principal. Quinton said Dean inspired more kids and parents to get involved on campus.
“Our kids really looked up to him,” she said. One of those students was her 8th grade daughter Taliyah Hemingway. “He was always involved with our students. He was always encouraging us to do better,” said Hemingway.
“This situation is upsetting to all of us, but know that we will work through it together,” Cruz wrote in the letter. Austin ISD officials offered up extra counselors during the week to support faculty and students.
In January 2009, Dean was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated. The charge was reduced to obstructing a highway passageway, a Class B misdemeanor, in November 2009, the Statesman also reported.
A Dean family member told KXAN (NBC) this is a very difficult and challenging time. They continue to trust in the justice system, asserting Dean is innocent until proven guilty.
Last year, Breitbart Texas reported on a Dallas area elementary school principal, Oscar Figueroa, arrested for alleged online solicitation of under-age boys for oral sex. On April 1, 2016, he was convicted in federal court on one count of attempted coercion and enticement of a minor. Figueroa could face a prison sentence of 10 years to life.
Incidences of improper sexual relationships among educators and students continue to escalate in Texas. Between September 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) opened 114 cases to investigate, up from 85 cases in the same time period a year ago. The 2014-15 school year marked the 7th consecutive year these kinds of sexual misconduct investigations peaked, with a record-breaking 188 cases.
Experts hold the proliferation of social media as a root case. In December, the Texas Senate Education Committee held a hearing to examine the role of social media in fostering rampant educator-student inappropriate relationships. On May 11, TEA investigator Doug Phillips testified before the Texas House Public Education Committee on this topic.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.