LHS teacher dismissed for sexual misconduct

LHS teacher dismissed for sexual misconduct

By Kathi Bliss

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

A Lockhart High School teacher turned herself in to local authorities on Monday after allegations surfaced that she was engaged in an “inappropriate relationship” with a student last week.

According to a prepared statement by the Lockhart Independent School District, LHS teacher Sarah Fowlkes was placed on administrative leave, with no hope of returning to the District, after reports surfaced prior to Spring Break that Fowlkes had inappropriate contact with a student.

District officials report that on March 10, as classes broke for Spring Break, the District received “a concerning report,” which was quickly passed on to the Lockhart Police Department and Child Protective Services.

The ensuing investigation revealed that Fowlkes, 26, had engaged in “sexual contact with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of the student,” according to a release from the Lockhart Police Department.

Details on the student’s identity have not been released, and will not be published by this newspaper, should they come to light.

In Texas, the legal age of sexual consent is 17, and because the student alleged in the case is above consenting age, charges of statutory rape are not being discussed at this time. However, despite legal consent, the question of an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and student is being called into question.

Fowlkes was booked into Caldwell County Jail on Monday afternoon, and later released.

“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 in a prepared statement on Monday. “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.”

Further, Bohn noted in a letter to Lockhart High School parents that the District will also send notice of the alleged conduct to the State Board for Educator Certification.

Though the Lockhart ISD website and the Lockhart High School website have been scrubbed of information regarding Fowlkes’ employment, earlier accounts indicate that she was employed by the District in 2014, teaching at Plum Creek Elementary for two years before moving to Lockhart High School, where she taught Environmental Systems and Anatomy and Physiology. She was also a Cheer sponsor.

Her now-scrubbed social media profile indicates that she hails from Dripping Springs, and that she celebrated her birthday with her husband the night before she turned herself in to authorities.

Additionally, Fowlkes has drawn international media attention for her demeanor in the mugshot released by the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department on Monday, in which she is smiling brightly.

“She grinned and bared it,” noted the New York Post, while the British tabloid The Sun said she “seemed to find her arrest a joyous occasion,” according to Kansas City Star reporter Lisa Gutierrez.

Additionally, in the short time since her arrest, Fowlkes has become something of a social media sensation, with memes emerging likening her mugshot to those of superstars Justin Bieber and Bruno Mars, saying “when you know you got bail money…” The post received hundreds of likes and “ReTweets” after being posted on Tuesday morning.

It was unclear at press time how high bond had been set for Fowlkes, who was said to have obtained release from jail on bond; sources say she has retained an Austin-based defense attorney. Under the Texas Penal Code, an Improper Student/Teacher Relationship is classified as a Second Degree Felony, punishable by 2-20 years of incarceration, and up to $10,000 in fines.

Anyone with information regarding this pending investigation is encouraged to contact Detective Jesse Bell at the Lockhart Police Department at (512) 398-4401.

kathibliss@post-register.com

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