Police arrested a Texas preschool teacher late Monday afternoon following accusations he sexually assaulted a four-year-old girl in the school’s bathroom.
Authorities charged John Charles Arnold, who taught at the Nature School of Austin, with aggravated sexual assault of a child, a first degree felony. He is being held on $100,000 bail, according to Austin Police Department records. If convicted, he faces a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.
The court documents show, Arnold, 51, purportedly followed the child into the school bathroom on September 30 while the other children slept during nap time. The girl told police Arnold touched her “potty,” the word she used to describe her genitals, and said it caused her pain, KEYE reported. The Nature School of Austin is a private preschool for youngsters ages two through six.
On January 9, officers questioned Arnold about the alleged bathroom incident. He denied any wrongdoing. Instead, he shared an October 3 situation where he took away a lipstick from the purported victim, KXAN reported. Arnold said the preschool hired him in September and fired him in October following a parent meeting with the alleged victim’s mother, two other parents, and the preschool director.
Last month, the unidentified mother told investigators she contacted the school in early October to speak to Arnold about some issues. At the time, she did not know about the alleged bathroom molestation. She learned about it afterwards on October 14 from her daughter. The mother said the school director would not allow her to speak to Arnold initially. She said she and two other concerned parents ended up meeting with the director and Arnold, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
She told police she knew about the lipstick incident. Based on the affidavit, the Austin newspaper reported the mother said Arnold admitted to rubbing the purported victim’s back and feet to help her fall asleep during nap time. She claimed Arnold said he was in the bathroom with her child. Officers interviewed one of the parents from that October meeting. This mother said her child loved going to school but suddenly didn’t like it anymore because of Arnold. Breitbart Texas reached out to the school for comment but they did not respond.
The number of Texas teachers engaging inappropriately with students remains a troubling problem. In 2015-16, it hit an all-time-high of 222 investigations opened by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), Breitbart Texas reported. This figure reflected an 80 percent increase compared to the 2008-09 school year when the agency opened 123 cases. A spike of 188 reported incidents during the 2014-15 school year led some state lawmakers to meet and seek policy solutions, Breitbart Texas reported. Then, in October 2016, the TEA announced they would ask legislators to fund nearly $400,000 in their 2018-19 budget to better probe cases.
In his 2017 State of the State, Governor Greg Abbott called for legislation that imposed real consequences upon educators who violate their students sexually and administrators who “turn a blind eye” to this deviant behavior. He noted “…a small number of teachers have given Texas an unwanted ranking. Texas reportedly leads the nation in teacher-student sexual assaults.”
Breitbart Texas reported TEA Director of Educator Investigations Doug Phillips identified the difficulties of criminally prosecuting educator sexual predators. He said not all improper relationships are reported, or considered crimes like when sexual conduct cannot be proven or when a teacher has a sexual relationship with a student of consenting age, which is 17-years-old, but works in a different school district than a student attends. Cases often end with a reprimand, suspension, license surrender or revocation.
Recently, state Representative Tony Dale (R-Cedar Park) filed House Bill 218 and Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) introduced Senate Bill 7. Both criminalize the actions of educators who cross the line sexually with students regardless of what district a student attends. They also hold to account superintendents, principals, and directors who do not report instances of teacher-student sexual misconduct.
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