Authorities in the Texas Panhandle arrested a high school football coach late last week on allegations that he crossed the line sexually with a female student.
On December 7, Amarillo police charged Brian Pantoja, a football coach for the Highland Park Independent School District, with having an improper relationship with a student, which is a second degree felony. Potter County Sheriff’s Office records show authorities booked Pantoja into the Potter County Detention Center and set his bail at $20,000. He bonded out two days later. If found guilty, Pantoja, 25, could face up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Reportedly, on December 5, the Amarillo Police Department received a tip about possible inappropriate sexual behavior between the coach and a female high school student, which led to accusations made against Pantoja, who also holds a certificate to teach history in grades seven through 12, according to the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
Many of the details surrounding this case remain unknown. On Monday, Highland Park ISD Superintendent Jimmy Hannon released a prepared statement saying that state and federal law precluded him from “disclosing personally identifiable student information, as well as confidential information.”
Then, he disclosed that, on December 6, school district administrators learned from Amarillo PD that a Highland Park ISD teacher “may be involved in an inappropriate relationship with a female student.” The next day, Pantoja submitted his resignation “effective immediately.” According to Hannon, school administrators “fully cooperated” with the police probe. He said the school district conducted its own internal investigation, reporting their findings about the incident to Child Protective Services. They also notified the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) that Pantoja resigned “when there was evidence that he was involved in an improper relationship with a district student.”
Regarding Pantoja’s fate, Hannon remarked, “The Amarillo Police Department will determine whether to pursue criminal charges in this matter.” The superintendent said he wanted to reassure families that the district “has taken steps to keep its students safe.”
Hannon stated that employees receive regular training and administration encourages anyone with information of a suspected improper relationship should immediately contact the either his office or Amarillo PD. He divulged that Highland Park ISD’s “policies concerning improper personal relationships between staff and students is strictly enforced.”
This year, Texas lawmakers cracked down on education professionals who cross the line sexually and/or romantically with students by passing the Senate Bill 7 during the 85th legislative session. The law went into effect on September 1. Its lead author Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) characterized the rampant problem of teacher-student illicit lascivious rendezvous as a “plague” on the state’s classrooms.
Breitbart Texas reported extensively on SB 7. The deterrent law aims to curb the number of these incidents by closing loopholes and imposing harsher punishments on wayward educators. SB 7 holds principals and superintendents to account with jail time when they look the other way and fail to report teacher carnal misdeeds. It prohibits school districts from rehiring convicted educator predators and mandates the automatic revocation of a teaching credential even if an educator only receives deferred adjudication.
In September, Breitbart Texas reported the TEA opened a record 302 cases of improper relationships between educators and students in the 2016-17 academic year. This marked the ninth consecutive year that the number of Texas teachers accused of this abhorrent behavior skyrocketed. It also reflected an jump of 36 percent of such reported cases from the 2015-16 school year when the TEA accounted for 222 cases, and it was a 145 percent increase since the TEA began tracking incidents of teacher-student sexual misconduct in 2008-09. That year, they reported 123 cases.
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