PSJA ISD paraprofessional fired amid sexual assault allegations

A high school paraprofessional was terminated earlier this month by the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district days prior to his arrest for sexual assault of a child, a charge which stems from an alleged relationship with a student.

Jesus Cantu, 63, was also arrested June 19 for an improper relationship between an educator and student. He could face up to 20 years in prison on both second-degree felony charges.

The school district became aware of the alleged relationship June 6, when San Juan police were called to attend to a 16-year-old girl shortly before 7 a.m. The girl told the officer she was lost, according to the criminal complaint tied to the charges.

She had the officer take her to a residence she described as her father’s house, where upon arrival the officer saw Cantu, who denied being her parent, identifying her instead as a student and said “they were just friends.”

Cantu was terminated that same day, according to a statement released by PSJA. At the time of his firing he had worked as a teacher’s aide at PSJA Memorial Early College High School.

During the course of the investigation, police learned the 16-year-old had been reported as a run-away from Alamo. She alleged she had been communicating with Cantu, who she met at Memorial ECHS, on her cellphone and admitted to being in love with him, according to the complaint.

The complaint also notes that she told police she had stayed at Cantu’s residence, where they would sleep in the same bed and had sex earlier that morning.

“Notification of his termination and the allegations against him was sent to the Texas Education Agency, State Board of Educator Certification and Child Protective Services,” the district said in its statement.

Cantu has been a licensed Educational Aide II since September 2009 and his Texas Educator Certificate lists him as under review by the TEA Educator Investigations Division.

He has been in the custody of the Hidalgo County sheriff’s jail since his June 19 arrest on a total $250,000 cash surety bond.

msmith@themonitor.com