'Smiling' teacher charged with sexual contact with teen
SARAH Fowlkes is happily smiling. Yet the schoolteacher is not at a party, or a function, she is having her mugshot taken.
The 27-year-old science teacher at Lockhart High School in the city of Arlington, Texas, is accused of being "engaged in sexual contact" with a 17-year-old male student.
She has been suspended from her job, which she started last September, after being charged with "engaging in an improper relationship between an educator and student".
Lockhart Independent School District said in a statement that the school became aware of an incident on March 10. Lockhart Police Department was called and an investigation started.
"Lockhart parents entrust their children to us every day, and it is something we do not take lightly. Student safety is the district's most important priority," said Superintendent Susan Bohn.
"As soon as we learned of the report, we acted swiftly to involve law enforcement and CPS to conduct a thorough investigation. The district does not and will not tolerate any improper communication or contact between a teacher and child.
"Fowlkes will not return to the school district."
The district also said it would also be "sending notice of the conduct to the State Board for Educator Certification"m which would determine if Fowlkes can continue teaching.
Fowlkes went to the police on Monday (local time) to be charged and was released on bail later that day.
Lockhart Police Department told Hays Free Press that Fowlkes engaged in "sexual content with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of the student."
"Investigation into the incident led the case detective to a male student aged 17 named Michael (pseudonym).
"Interviews determined that Michael had been in contact in person and by message with an educator in Lockhart High School identified as Sarah Madden Fowlkes.
"Michael revealed that during the course of their encounters, (Fowlkes) touched Michael's genitals with the intent to arose or gratify the sexual desire of Michael and that Michael made contact with the defendant's breasts, with the intent to arouse of gratify the sexual desire of the defendant," Police alleged in court documents.
The age of consent in Texas is 17 but it is illegal for teachers to have sexual contact with students of any age.
"Seventeen years old is obviously older, but at the same time it doesn't make anything right," Detective Jesse Bell told news station KXAN-TV.
"If the kid is in school, parents trust the school to take care of their kids so it's definitely not right - that a teacher in a position of power over a student be able to take advantage of a student."
The charges and reaction from the school district - where Fowlkes has taught since October 2014 - and the police would appear unlikely to warrant a smile when her mugshot was taken.
However her lawyer Jason Nassour explained why she appeared so happy when charged.
"You've got a young lady who was arrested on the statement of a 17-year-old kid with no corroborating evidence. This isn't a guilty person sitting there like they just got caught," Nassour told news station KXAS-TV.
"When everything's fleshed out it won't be as it appears."