Trinity Lutheran Elementary Teacher Had Students Become Pen Pals with Child Molester, Suit Says (UPDATED)

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It was a class project, suit says.
Parents have filed a lawsuit against Trinity Lutheran School that claims a teacher had students become pen pals with a man who has been convicted of child molestation.

The suit also says the teacher's fiancé, under indictment for possession of child pornography, was allowed to interact with the nine- and ten-year-old students, possibly even coaching some sports teams.

Officials at the downtown Houston school "knew of the hazard of the minor children communicating with and giving personal information to an accused child molester, or they failed to take any action to make themselves aware of the risks -- action as simple as running his name on Google or other search engine," the suit says.

The suit says students were corresponding with Rickey Rea Rowlett while he was in Comal County Jail on child molestation charges. He was sentenced last week to 50 years in prison.

The suit says the teacher announced a class project in which students would write to Rowlett. "In order to avoid having the Comal County Sheriff's Department recognize and detect children's letters entering the jail...[the teacher] would give them to her father, who would repackage them in a larger envelope or package for delivery to Rowlett to avoid detection as 'contraband' by the jail."

The letters, which were discovered when Rowlett was being transferred to prison, were intended to possibly be used in Rowlett's defense in the sentencing phase of his trial, the suit says.

School principal Church pastor Michael Dorn downplayed the issue when he was informed of it and told the parents both Rowlett and the fiancé were innocent until proven guilty, the suit says.

The suit also says the children had been led to believe Rowlett was "an innocent protector of children to be believed and warmly received, placing him on a pedastal of trust."

The children, the suit says, were therefore dismayed and felt guilty about Rowlett's conviction and the school's subsequent "reluctant" firing of the teacher.

We've contacted Trinity Lutheran and they say they will be issuing a statement, which we'll post as soon as we receive it.

Update: The statement is in from John Menke, the governing board chairman of the school and church. He apologizes, but says the knowledge of the situation was "limited to two individuals" and did not include "the highest level of administration."

On behalf of the governing board of Trinity Lutheran School, we share the concern and fully understand the gravity of these allegations because we are parents and members of this church too. We are fully committed to the safety of our students and families and want to stress that this is not reflective of how we strive to operate as a church and school. In our understanding the facts of the situation, we do not condone any of the alleged activities or the decisions of those individuals involved. Our governing board is investigating what involved staff members knew as well as their action and inaction. This situation is absolutely unacceptable and we are currently taking the proper steps to address it. Based on our investigation to date, the lawsuit has many inaccuracies -‐ namely the allegation that the highest level of administration was aware of the letter writing project. That knowledge was, in fact, limited to two individuals.

We have taken a number of actions to date in order to address this situation. Mrs. Perry is no
longer an employee of Trinity and Mrs. Boatman has been placed on administrative leave. We
have reviewed our campus policy and procedures for on‐site security and building access and
added daytime security officer from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. As a small school
and a close‐knit community, we are providing ongoing counseling for our students and staff
members. Additional measures will be taken as the facts support those decisions.

While policies are in place, we have formed a task force of our governing board to conduct a
thorough review of the facts and determination of whether staff members have complied with
all policies and procedures. In addition, we are training staff on our policies and procedures to
ensure this type of situation does not happen again. We will also communicate any future
additions to those policies to our staff and parents.


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34 comments
adarc
adarc

That is ridiculous for this to happen in this and age.  I had a crazy teacher back in the 70's who used to invite her ex-con boyfriend in to the classroom, and when my mom found out he was spending so much time in school, she did a little research and turns out the boyfriend was convicted of child molestation. It didn't take long to get him & teacher thrown out of school. That was BEFORE the Internet, and background checks! And no in this school had more sense in their head than that? Remember, the only thing a child molester loves as much as children, is a girlfriend with access to LOTS MORE children.

My2Cents
My2Cents

"The suit says the teacher announced a class project in which students would write to Rowlett. "In order to avoid having the Comal County Sheriff's Department recognize and detect children's letters entering the jail...[the teacher] would give them to her father, who would repackage them in a larger envelope or package for delivery to Rowlett to avoid detection as 'contraband' by the jail."

...that right there tells it all, she knew it was wrong to involve these kids, and then to involve them with a known child predator...I have no sympathy for this woman...what on earth could she have been thinking, obviously she wasn't or she has no qualms condoning contact between children and molesters.

And as far as innocent until proven guilty...I would rather err on the side of safety for these children.

Chuck Roast
Chuck Roast

Ah, the perils of yet another "overworked and underpaid" teacher.I know what.  Here's an idea  Let's all agree to higher, outrageous property taxes to pay for some raises for folks like this.  I know I can't wait to "properly fund" education for Texas children by hard working "professionals" such as this.

miss_msry
miss_msry

What kind of school is this? The principal was "reluctant' to fire the teacher?

Karam Karmi
Karam Karmi

Schools must be very deligent or people would stop sending their children to schools.

Speak
Speak

Surely you are not so naieve as to believe everything you read. Do you really think that a person trying to go around the rules would announce it to a class of 4th graders? Have a little common scence. Especially if this person is as evil and scheeming as the suit would have you believe? Also please google Comal County Jail Mail Rules, it states no pen pals, not third party mail ...... three pages worth of rules. Do you think that outgoing mail from the jail is not read? Sounds like Comal screwed up big time and is trying to deflect. Had they have done there job (which by the way is actually paid for by tax dollars) this would have been stopped before any letters were received.The response also seems to neglect to mention that some of the children's parents knew about the letters and even read them and did not have a problem until some of them saw dollar signs.

Meandt1998
Meandt1998

It has alsobeen reported that she (the teacher) is married to a sex offender (Derek Perry)who is awaiting trial for creating and brokering child pornography, namelysmall children seen in S&M videos, he has been the target of a stingoperation arrested trying to sell the videos (the husband of the teacher, notthe pen pal), and has been caught on at least two occasions by the undercover police,which is in the court papers; all the while, the principal and pastors, churchofficials and other teachers/friends/relatives were in the know allowing himcomplete access to the school, facilities, gymnasium, locker-room andbathrooms, and of course the unsuspecting children; he was a Sunday Schoolteacher, a kids camp counselor, after school programs, and assisted around theschool, until this week. The church may have even been helping with his defensefund. His brother remains a teacher at the school (last name Perry). The proverbial "can ofworms" has just been opened on this group. This church lost its way withthe influence of a subgroup of people who are really a cult; unfortunatelyforever tarnishing the church's reputation. Such a injustice to the children and theparents who were lied to; who dropped their children off every day trustingthese so called "adults" to protect their beloved children. It iscriminal.

punkin003
punkin003

My2, I think we were seperated at birth!!!  I totally and 100% second your entire statement!

Kilgore Trout
Kilgore Trout

Maybe I've had a hard day and I'm just looking for a reason to go off. But I'm going to take this bait.

First of all, Mr. Stickles is right; this is a private school, so your beloved property taxes are irrelevant.

Secondly, add up every story you've read or heard about a bad teacher doing bad things in this area over, say, the last ten years. There are 8,000 (+/-) teachers in Houston ISD alone, and several thousand more in surrounding districts. All those bad teachers probably add up to less than 1% of the total. But I can recognize the usual hysterical nutcase when I see one, and I'm sure you're convinced there's a massive hidden conspiracy of criminal sex fiends working in our schools, all protected by the galderned librul Amurrica-hatin' mee-dee-yuh.

Lastly, give thanks to the diety who curses us with these asinine opinions for a public education system that is a bedrock of our civilization, and take note of all the nations on earth who invest in such educational systems, and compare them to the ones who do not, and tell me which ones you'd rather be exiled to when rightwingers finally scale back the last 100 years of progress in this country and the purge finally begins.

Now, thank you, Houston Press, for allowing me to vent. I feel better.

My2Cents
My2Cents

And you know for a FACT that the parents saw these letters before they were sent? Seems the parents didn't find out about the letters until they were contacted by authorities and made aware of said letters.

My2Cents
My2Cents

I will say, it is interesting that you are more concerned that they are suing someone about this, than you are with the fact that these children were put into the path of 2 child molesters...

They found these letters in his cell when moving him....what do you think she told them to get them to write him letters to start with?? Giving personal information, where they live... I'm pretty certain she didn't tell the kids he was a molester.

My2Cents
My2Cents

No I am not so nieve, however, as I said, I will always err on the safety of the children.  But I am also fully aware that stuff gets to inmates regularly when it shouldn't, should those other parents have said something, most definitely, and I don't know who did or didn't but even so, this woman has allowed herself to involve a class of kids with a convicted molester, pardon, not one, but 2, to include her fiance who is presently under indictment?  She misleads these kids to believe this convicted one is some innocent protector, only for them to find out he's not??? How do we teach our kids to have some kind of trust in those in authority? I would actually like to read the note that went to the parents for myself...to know what the parents thought the kids were doing.  It is truly a sad thing when we have to tell our children they are to trust no one in their lives, short of their parents and siblings... and even then, there are children out there that don't even have them to trust with their care....  I as much as any, despise frivolous lawsuits, does this lawsuit open peoples eyes to yet another thing they have to watch out for? certainly and personally I hope they roast their ass for this...

My2Cents
My2Cents

I wasn't clear in my comment, but it is in fact the husband I am most disturbed about.  It is evident from this woman's actions alone that she, herself condones what these men have done.  You are absolutely correct about the injustice to these children and their parents.  As a parent you pray that you have taught your kids the best you could and took care to keep them safe, you put them into trusted hands, whether church or school and then you find out this goes on... my heart goes out to these families.  

My2Cents
My2Cents

dang...you got all the looks though...lmao

Tim
Tim

How more Teacher Union blowhard commentary trying to hide the fact that there are huge numbers of teachers who are totally into molesting kids.

Be they private school or public union types, there have to be over a hundred a year that are being arrrested for all this.

And our public education system is awash in money and the scores of our kids drop EVERY year.  And what do the union trolls do?  They whine about not having even more money to waste.

Our public school system was working fine a few decades ago.  Of course that's before the Left co-opted and ruined it.

So save us all the self-righteous crying.

kimbev69
kimbev69

Have you not seen all the teachers having sex with students? Even one pedo in school is too many

My2Cents
My2Cents

Did you see one of these yourself?

Speak
Speak

Some parents for a fact new some may not have.

My2Cents
My2Cents

Absolutely and I am right there with your mom!!  This is also why I have a hard time believing any parent would allow their children to have anything to do with prisoners, if they had known or been informed by the school.

adarc
adarc

It was the teacher's job to ensure the safety of her students by researching what she'd been told to make sure it was all as she believed it to be. I don't care if her mom/dad/pastor/faithful dog who gave her the info. She had a responsibility to her students. She failed, miserably.

adarc
adarc

I agree with you 100%.  This is not Dickensian England, people are not put in prison for being in debt, they are put their because they committed a crime. I remember being in CCD as a kid and being told by Sister Agnes that we were going to assemble care packages for the "poor men in prison". I have never had a more uncomfortable feeling than that whole week of my life. My family was poor, and we had a sick baby at home and here this self righteous nun was telling me to ask my mother to take money out of our weekly budget to go out and shop for a convict! ( We had a whole list of items to bring in -brand new of course.) When Sister Agnes asked where my "gifts for the poor" were, I told her I'd wouldn't take food out of the mouth of my baby sister for any convict. I got a lecture on Jesus and my mother was called down. Well Sister Agnes regretted calling my mother, because when my mother heard the reason she'd been dragged away from cooking dinner she just about exploded. She gave Sister an earful for about 45 minutes on charity, and kindness, and how it was neither to expect gifts out of the mouths of babies to benefit people who had given up their freedom in pursuit of a life of crime.

My2Cents
My2Cents

I have no problem with them writing the others... but not prisoners, sorry no amount of rational of what Christian schools do or don't do, this was wrong.  Even if she was unaware of her pos husband's activities, it is just common sense not to involve children with criminals, not matter what the crime, especially at this age... and on top of it, this POS molester that got 50 yrs, was going to use these letters at his defense hearing...oh I will call bullshit all day...sorry

Speak
Speak

You might want to talk to some people who have children or have been in Christian schools. They do also write to all of the other groups you mentioned.

My2Cents
My2Cents

Sorry 4th graders do not understand that they have a choice when told of an assignment or even extra credit and sorry but I have a major issue with any teacher having children write to people in prison.  Have them write to missionaries, to elderly people in the neighborhood or nursing homes, to anyone other than prisoners...no excuse.  To easy to say it's the criminals fault for not telling me he's a pedofile...hmmm try checking his name out before you even suggest this type of project.  

I don't believe for one minute that the parents knew what this teacher was doing, I don't believe any note went to the parents about it, because as a parent and friends who are parents, none of the people I know would have allowed their child to write to anyone in prison...sorry say what you like about hind sight... but if a note had come to my house from the school saying my child is writing letters to prisoners... I would have the same issue with it and even more so if I found out that they went to someone convicted for molestation.

Speak
Speak

I understand the concern for the children and agree whole heartedly. In this case trusting adults and your parents is a key part of the story. The 26 year old teacher was told by her father that this person was trying to protect his grandchildren from a drug addict mother. As it turns out her father as well as the teacher were deceived by the criminal. She trusted her father and shared the story as she had been told it. Based on the Bible verse "when I was in prison you visited me" she gave the children an option (not mandatory) to write. In hind sight it is very easy to say what should have happened, what each of us would have actually done who knows? As for her husband , as soon as he was charged he was removed from contact with the children. This I know for a fact. This will be resolved through the court system and may not turn out to be what you think.

woefatcat
woefatcat

 Love the "if it's so easy" question. You will never get people to understand what is being done to our education system. It takes too much energy for people to actually look beyond the bumper sticker slogan that they repeat over and over. Look at higher education right now to see where some people want your little ones education to go. More for profit schools, sucking at the government teat, short changing your kid for a few more bucks.

Kilgore Trout
Kilgore Trout

You want schools to manage their money better? Then the GOP-controlled Lege could make that happen by changing the obligations currently forcing schools to dedicate huge sums to things like special education, drop-outs, and remedial courses for students who'd rather take vocational training and get out instead of wasting their time in college prep courses. But the GOP won't do that, because actually managing these institutions is hard; pissing and moaning about unions is easier. Which is funny in Texas, because unions here are like the office of the Vice President: not worth a bucket of warm spit.

As it is, teachers are spending a couple hundred bucks a year out of pocket on expenses because the pittance they get from their schools isn't enough.

Tell you what, dude: if the job is so easy, go to your local high school and apply. There are probably plenty of math and science positions open. You could show everybody how it's done. I mean, this job is easy, right? And the money is so good, and the vacation time is great. It's a wonder crowds aren't beating down the schoolhouse doors to apply.

And one more thing: I didn't think we had gotten so outrageously absurd as to actually require folks to make an explicit condemnation of pedophilia. I rather thought we could assume most reasonable folks would be opposed to such a thing. Apparently that's not true, and I really have to say child molesters are evil, or people will assume the opposite.

kimbev69
kimbev69

Hey i agree i work for a community college support staff in nj gov christie is raping all of us teachers and support staff, but i dont believe in tenure, no one should be protected after they are tenured then they screw up and keep their jobs

Allison
Allison

Absolutely true. So let's make sure there's better protocols in place for 1) not hiring sex offenders in the first place and 2) getting sex offenders quickly out of the classroom or locker room as soon as something comes to light. But that has NOTHING to do with teacher salaries.

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