Permian High School, the Odessa, Texas, school best known as the setting for the bestselling book Friday Night Lights, as well as the film and TV series that followed, is now the setting for a bizarre and disturbing drama of a different kind over the past year — one that apparently resulted in the suicide of a popular teacher this week.
Since April of 2013, no fewer than five Permian High School employees, including four teachers and one staff member, have faced allegations of carrying on sexual relationships with students. While the first four employees were women accused of engaging in sexual relationships with students, this week golf coach and social studies teacher Mark Lampman faced allegations that he too was involved in an improper teacher-student relationship.
The 47-year-old, 17-year veteran of the Ector County Independent School District was questioned by school officials about the accusations on Tuesday. Lampman immediately turned in his resignation and left Permian High School.
One day later, the well-liked teacher's body was found in a West Odessa field with a gunshot wound to the chest. The county coroner ruled that the fatal wound was self-inflicted, but a full autopsy had yet to be conducted Thursday.
While no further details of the allegations against Lampman were made public, apparently they were well-known within Permian High School, as administrators quickly sought to calm an outbreak of vitriol on social media directed at the student allegedly involved with Lampman.
Out of respect for the families involved in today's tragedy, we are asking all to refrain from inappropriate, hateful posts to social media.But the Lampman incident was only the latest in an epidemic of teacher-student sex charges at Permian High School.
— Ector County ISD (@EctorCountyISD) May 8, 2014
The outbreak began in April of last year when Kathryn Maples, a 28-year-old swimming coach and history teacher at Permian, was accused of sending sexually explicit photos of herself and sexually frank text messages to a 17-year-old male student.
Just a few weeks later, Permian High School physical trainer April Collins, also 28, resigned after also being accused of sending sexually explicit photos and texts, this time to a 19-year-old male student, expressing her desire to have sexual relations with him and even offering to rent a motel room where they could get it done.
Both women resigned and were later indicted on charges of conducting an improper relationship between an educator and a student, which is a second-degree felony.
In April of this year, another female employee resigned when faced with accusations from parents of an inappropriate relationship with a student, though that investigation is ongoing. Then on Wednesday, April 30, Alisha Carrasco Knighten, 25, a phys ed teacher and assistant softball coach at Permian, resigned as she, too, was being investigated for an alleged improper relationship with a student.
Asked why Permian High School would be the location of such a high frequency of teacher-student sex allegations, school district spokesperson Mike Adkins said he wasn't sure.
"If we had a reasonable explanation we would be working to fix that specifically are right now," he said of the Permian High School epidemic of improper relationships. "We provide recurring training for all employees. Obviously we need to do more."