A teacher accused of assaulting her student stayed at school during the investigation | Crime/Police
A St. James Parish art teacher charged with assault and having an inappropriate sexual conversation with a 12-year-old student stayed at work at St. James Parish High School for more than two months after sheriff’s deputies informed school officials that she was the subject of a criminal investigation related to the girl’s complaint.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested Lisa Ann Samuels, 50, this year for child molestation and indecent behavior with a minor after the student alleged that Samuels told her about his sexual relations with women and, at some point before, stroked his chest, according to bail documents.
The girl’s mother reported the comments to the school system in an Oct. 20 statement and the girl separately called a state crisis hotline about the breast touching allegation, according to bond documents and the letter from mother.
The girl claimed that Samuels put “his hands under her shirt and stroked her chest to show her what would happen if she didn’t wear a bra,” according to a brief account in the bail papers.
Sheriff Willy Martin Jr. said his office told school officials that investigators were following up the allegations with a criminal investigation and later school officials knew investigators were interviewing people on campus. from school. Samuels stayed on the job until deputies arrested her Jan. 12, the sheriff said, when school officials separately announced they had placed her on administrative leave.
“I guess (school officials) could have waited for us and what we were going to do about it,” Martin said. “I don’t really know, but they knew since the end of October that we were investigating the complaint against her. They were aware of it.”
Although the child who made the allegations did not attend school for some time afterwards, when she returned, Samuels’ continued presence on campus left the girl upset and worried. , his mother told school officials in later emails.
The usual procedure
In many school systems, it is common for teachers or staff who are the subject of this type of criminal investigation to be placed on paid administrative leave while an investigation is ongoing.
Robert Hammonds, a Baton Rouge attorney who has represented school systems for 44 years, including St. James, said the paid furlough happens for a number of reasons, but one is so investigators can do their work without the accused employee trying to get involved. or itself in the probe.
“This is standard procedure that most school boards in the state use,” Hammonds said. He said he was unfamiliar with Samuel’s case and did not work on it for St. James Schools.
He added that on a few occasions, school systems failed to suspend employees facing criminal allegations because the systems conducted their own concurrent investigations and found compelling evidence that the employees were innocent.
Since Samuels’ arrest two months ago, St. James Parish prosecutors have formally charged her with the indecent assault count, but not the indecent behavior count.
The charge was brought by prosecutors through an information bill, not a grand jury indictment, according to court documents.
A spokesperson for District Attorney Ricky Babin did not return an email to comment on the charging decision or the case in general.
Samuels, who remained in the St. James Parish Jail on Thursday on $150,000 bond, is set to be arraigned March 28, according to court documents.
The school system was given the opportunity to comment on the story on Wednesday and Acting Superintendent Kelly Morton Cook and the school board declined to comment Thursday through a school administrator.
Carol Webre, administrative director of human resources, spoke of “the expectation of these ongoing legal proceedings”.
The mother of the child behind the charges declined to comment on advice from her lawyer, Jill Craft. A public defender assigned to Samuels did not return a request for comment Wednesday.
Earlier this year, Cook replaced acting Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne Jr. after his retirement in February.
Cook is still listed on the school’s website in her former job as a school system advocate and director of risk management and student services.
one on one
Samuels is a talented art teacher in the St. James system, has worked at other district schools in the past.
According to the October 20 complaint letter, the mother of the girl accused of sexual assault wrote that a conversation Samuels had with her child on October 7 prompted her daughter to say she no longer wanted to be in the room. ‘talented art and to appear to tremble. around Sam.
In this conservation, Samuels is said to have discussed his many relationships with women, including sexual ones, after beginning with small talk in the school hall.
Samuels originally pulled the girl out of her drama class for the Oct. 7 art session. In the hallway, Samuels allegedly told the girl that she looked sad. Although the girl denied being sad, Samuels said she reminded him of his niece and asked if she was “part of his circle”, according to the mother’s letter.
When the girl asked what ‘a circle’ was, Samuels allegedly asked the child ‘to move their conversation somewhere else’ and took her to the stage in the auditorium where Samuels talked about his relationships with women as she continued to search for others, the letter alleges.
The girl told Samuels that she was too young to talk about sex and that she felt the conversation was inappropriate, but Samuels replied that the girl “wasn’t too young to have sex or talk about sex,” according to the mother’s letter.
The conversation left the daughter no longer wanting to be in talented art, the mother wrote, and, weeks later, she remained eager to be with Samuels. who stayed on campus.
School officials and the girl’s mother put a plan in place to have the girl escorted as she walked the halls between classes and to minimize contact with Samuels, emails show. School officials also worked to find him a replacement art teacher, emails show.
In a Jan. 7 email to school officials, however, the mother said she had documented seven previous instances of Samuels being around the girl.
These incidents include a Dec. 14 incident where Samuels allegedly walked into the girl’s classroom “after being told she couldn’t go to class,” the mother wrote.
‘Turkey’ comments on a joke
News of Samuels’ arrest sparked a flurry of complaints on social media and the community about his past activities at St. James schools.
In mid-January, the school system denied a request for public records from The Advocate for Samuels’ personnel file, citing an exemption in state law. The file cannot be communicated to third parties without the written consent of the employee.
But Martin said his investigators considered several other complaints about him, but none rose to the level of inciting additional criminal charges.
Kalana Ambrose, who said she knows the family of the girl who made the latest allegations against Samuels, had Samuels as an art teacher at Sixth Ward Elementary School in Vacherie nearly a decade ago when Ambrose said that she was around the fourth grade.
Now 20 and a student at a college in New Orleans, Ambrose recalled Samuels telling her in front of her class “to close your legs before a turkey comes out.”
The comment was an apparent reference to Ambrose unwittingly exposing herself while seated at a table, even though she was wearing shorts.
Ambrose said Samuels often made inappropriate comments, though she never believed them to be anything more than color jokes.
“The kind of person she was, I knew she was just saying that to be funny. Like, that was inappropriate, but I feel like, the kind of person she is, that was his humor with a group of kids,” Ambrose said.
Ambrose said she never filed a complaint for the “turkey” comment, but it recently came back since Samuels was arrested.