Houston police have charged a veteran HISD teacher for allegedly fondling an 8-year-old student and they are asking for the public's help to determine if there are other alleged victims.
Miguel Angel Yepez, 38, has been a teacher at Harvard Elementary School in the Heights for 14 years. He is charged with indecency with a child for allegedly fondling a second grade girl repeatedly, in his classroom, during the 2011-2012 school year.
Yepez posted a $30,000 bond and has been reassigned by HISD pending trial. He was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.
The mother of a former student at the school, Marcella Pena, says she's not surprised by the arrest. Pena says she lodged three complaints against Yepez with school administrators the year before for what she terms inappropriate conduct involving her daughter, who was a second grader at the school during the 2009-2010 school year.
Ms. Pena says she complained to the school's principal after her daughter told her Yepez told her daughter that he was depressed over family problems.
“I just felt like when an adult starts talking to a child in this way and tries to earn their trust, their confidence. It just gives me the creeps.” Pena said.
She said she complained again about two months later after her daughter overheard Yepez talking about two other students.
“My daughter told me that Mr. Yepez was saying certain students in his classroom, second graders...he was saying these little girls were his girlfriends. That didn't seem appropriate to me at all.” Pena told Local 2 News.
Later that year, she made a third compliant after he daughter told her Yepez walked into a classroom and began massaging a female teacher's shoulders in front of students.
Ms. Pena says she was never told if any action was taken by school administrators.
“I'm just curious to know what HISD did with my complaint, and why it was not addressed. If it was addressed, we're not aware of it.” she said.
Asked if the complaints were received or acted upon by administrators, HISD Senior Media Relations Specialist Holly Huffman declined to comment, saying, “Unfortunately, we’re unable to provide additional information because of the ongoing criminal investigation.”
Tuesday, school administrators sent a note home with students saying:
"Harvard Elementary School Teacher Miguel Yepez was arrested last week and charged with indecency with a child. The charges are related to an incident that took place three years ago, but was only recently reported.
We immediately contacted the appropriate authorities and reassigned the second grade teacher to off campus, non-classroom duties pending the outcome of the investigation.
After learning of his arrest, we notified parents and began working to find a permanent replacement for his classroom. Because this is an ongoing criminal case, we are prevented from providing further information.
However, we want to stress that we take these situations very seriously. Our goal during this time has been and will continue to be ensuring our students are safe and that teaching and learning continue, uninterrupted."
Assistant Harris County District Attorney Stephen Driver says investigators are trying to determine if there are other alleged victims. He says anyone with information should call the Houston Police Juvenile Sex Crimes Division at 713-731-5335, Houston Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.