A Weslaco High School teacher is on administrative leave after being charged with having an improper relationship with a former student.
Tomas Perez, 37, was taken into custody by Weslaco police on Wednesday after a former female student made an outcry to school administrators last month.
According to a copy of the complaint against Perez, the now-former student had arrived at the Weslaco High School campus on April 9 to sit for the STAAR exam, which she needed to take before she could graduate. After completing the exam, she ran into Perez, who had previously been her summer school teacher.
The girl alleges that Perez touched her inappropriately while she was still a Weslaco High School student in 2017.
She told investigators that she, like other students, would spend time in Perez’s classroom when she had an “off period.” On one such occasion, she alleges Perez approached her after the only other student in the classroom had left.
“Mr. Perez approached and grabbed her breast” and asked her how long she would be there, the complaint reads.
She said she left the classroom after that.
The girl also told investigators that Perez had touched her buttocks more than once, and that he would rub her back and touch her shoulders.
She confided in a friend at the time, who encouraged her to report the incidents, but she didn’t until her encounter with Perez last month caused those memories to resurface.
The girl told investigators that Perez had asked for her phone number as she emerged from the STAAR testing area last month.
“(H)e asked her for her cellphone number and told her that it was ok because she was no longer a student,” the complaint reads.
She said she tried to avoid giving her number to Perez, but that “Perez kept insisting.”
Perez added her to the social media app, Snapchat, that same day and messaged her “a couple of times” before she deleted him from her app, she said.
Three days later, on April 12, she reported the incident to school administrators, who then notified campus police.
Video surveillance footage of the school appears to show Perez talking to the former student and calling her cellphone on the day she says he approached her, the complaint reads. However, footage from previous school years is unavailable, as it is only maintained for 30 days.
Investigators reached out to the friend whom the girl had confided in — he recalled her telling him that Perez had touched her breast, but couldn’t recall exactly when she told him. He also told investigators that he believed his friend, and described Perez as “being a little too friendly.”
Investigators met with Perez and his attorney Monday. He denied any wrongdoing, but added that he had greeted the girl with a hug on the day of the STAAR exam.
Perez was arrested by Weslaco police Wednesday on one count of improper relationship between educator and student, a second-degree felony. He was arraigned in the municipal court later that day and released on a $5,000 cash or surety bond.
Meanwhile, district officials placed him on administrative leave and have launched an investigation of their own, according to a statement the district released Thursday afternoon.
“Administration is cooperating with law enforcement in their investigation and has communicated with those impacted by the allegations,” the statement reads.
“The Weslaco ISD takes matters of this nature very seriously and acts appropriately. The safety and well-being of all is top priority.”