A 30-year-old Hopkins County woman was arrested Wednesday morning on a charge of improper relationship between an educator and a student, Hopkins County Sheriff Lewis Tatum and Chief Investigator Corley Weatherford said.
The investigation into Janie Lynn Perez’s behavior was launched Friday, when North Hopkins Independent School District officials received a report the school employee had been observed “communicating with a student through electronic media in violation of NHISD policies and regulation,” NHISD Superintendent Darin Jolly reported in a press release Tuesday.
“NHISD is deeply troubled by this situation. The safety and well-being of NHISD students is, and always will be, our primary concern. We commend the observant individual who made the initial report to NHISD administrators. We also commend the NHISD administrators for investigating the matter without delay and for notifying the appropriate authorities of the allegations that had been made,” Jolly stated in the release.
Due to the nature of information brought to school officials’ attention, administrators reported the alleged behavior to Child Protective Services and Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office personnel, Jolly said.
The sheriff’s officers began investigating the allegations late Friday after being contacted by school officials. HCSO staff worked on the case through the weekend and continued Monday. Perez and the other person involved were cooperative with the investigation, Weatherford said.
“We are grateful for the diligence and professionalism of the Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office and its commitment to the protection of NHISD students. Rest assured that NHISD will continue to work closely with the Sheriff’s Office and all other agencies involved in this investigation,” Jolly wrote in the prepared statement.
Based on the evidence and information gleaned, Perez was arrested on an improper relationship between educator and student charge Tuesday morning. The allegations involved only one student. No additional charges are expected in connection with the allegation, Weatherford said.
At the time of her arrest Wednesday, Perez had already resigned from her position at NHISD, which the directory on the school website lists as teacher’s aide. She did so on Sunday, Nov. 4, when NHISD administration notified her “of the investigation and the allegations and concerns that had been brought forth and also notified her that she was being placed on suspension without pay,” the release from Jolly read.
The charge of “improper relationship between educator and student” is punishable upon conviction as a second-degree felony offense of the Texas Penal Code, section 21.12, the law on which the charge is based, Weatherford said.
An improper relationship between an educator and a student, the TPC reads, is one in which an employee of a public or private primary or secondary school “engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse,” or “sexually explicit conduct” with a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school; is a student participant in an educational activity that is sponsored by a school district or a public or private primary or secondary school; if the student is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school is the primary participant in the activity. Sexually explicit conduct can include “any communication, language, or material, including a photographic or video image.”
The law applies regardless of age, unless the student is the employee’s spouse and the employee is not more than three years older than the enrolled student, and the relationship began before the accused person’s employment began with the school.