HOUSTON – A Houston elementary school substitute teacher has been charged with indecency with a child.
Pete Garcia Hernandez, 49, is accused of sexual contact with a child younger than 17 on Nov. 3, 2016, according to court documents.
"We're surprised we were all surprised by what happened. I hope the school (is) safe now," said Jackie Ruiz, the grandparent of a child at the school.
A day after about 20 parents protested outside the school based on the belief that Hernandez had inappropriately touched a child at school, the Houston Independent School District Police Department launched an investigation into the teacher.
The school's principal told police that Hernandez was assigned to teach a first-grade class for just over a week, from Oct. 24 through Nov. 4.
The principal told police that several parents came to the office during that time to complain that Hernandez had been kissing and touching some of the girls in class, according to court documents.
When Hernandez was questioned by police, he initially denied touching any of the students, but he eventually changed his story, court documents said.
"This never happens at this school. We got scared," another parent said.
Hernandez admitted to having sexual thoughts about three girls while he was teaching them about "force of motion," according to court documents. The girls straddled his leg and he moved them side to side and back and forth, police said.
He also said that he was speaking close to the girls when his tongue accidentally went into their mouths, court documents said.
"My daughter being a first grader and she had a subsitutue around the same time, it was scary for me. I thought it was in my daughter's classroom," said Veronica Lopez, whose child goes to the school. "He needs to rot in jail. These girls are barely starting life and now they have to carry this traumatized (experience) through their whole life."
Hernandez told police that he knew it was wrong and that he had lost sleep over the incidents. He told police that if he could take it back, he would, and that children don't go to school to get preyed upon.
HISD released the following statement:
"The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has accepted criminal charges against a former HISD substitute teacher following an HISD police investigation into reports that he engaged in inappropriate conduct with three students while working at Looscan Elementary School.
"The suspect – Pete Hernandez – was arrested Wednesday and charged with three counts of indecency with a child. He is no longer employed with the district.
"The allegations were first reported to school officials in November, at which time the substitute teacher was removed from the campus and an internal investigation begun. The administration also notified HISD police and Children’s Protective Service (CPS) of the allegation. Police then presented findings from their investigation to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, which accepted criminal charges.
"HISD takes situations such as this very seriously, as the safety of students is always the district’s top priority."