4th grade teacher Laura Perry won’t be winning any teach of the year awards anything soon after she started a pen-pals program between her fourth-grade students and a convicted child molester. The incident occurred at a Houston private school and investigators are now trying to determine how the teacher arranged for the pen-pals relationship to begin.
Rickey R. Rowlett of New Braunfels was convicted last month for repeatedly assaulting a girl younger than 14 from 2008 through 2011 yet he was able to exchange letters with students at Trinity Lutheran Church and School while he was jailed in Comal County.
After hearing about the case Comal County District Attorney Jennifer Tharp said it was “very alarming” and she personally travelled to the school to alert teachers and parents to the issue. In some cases the fourth-graders provided detailed personal information to the convicted child molester and even told Rowlett they wanted to meet him when he was freed.
John Menke, chairman of the school’s governing board called the practice completely unacceptable and acknowledged that his board has hired a private investigator to look further into the incident. The school board has also put into place new security protocols and policies.
Both Perry and principal Amy Boatman are no longer working at the school, Perry was fired and Boatman is currently on administrative leave while the issue is being further investigated.
Rowlett, 55, exchanged letters with dozens of students over the period of the pen pals program, he however won’t be out of jail for quite some time after a March 22 conclusion to his court case led to a 50 year sentence.
Tharp told the Houston Chronicle:
“Perry’s father, Larry Lanfried, testified as a character witness for Rowlett.”
The parents for two children enrolled at the school have already filed a lawsuit against the school have parents for one of the students in Perry’s class.