Parents say school failed to protect children in inmate pen-pal project

Students communicated with convicted sex offender

By Ryan Korsgard - Reporter

HOUSTON - A Houston family sued the Trinity Lutheran School claiming the school and its administrators failed to protect students as a teacher allowed students to correspond with a now convicted child molester. 

"Just disbelief over the whole situation," said the mother, who asked that her identity not be revealed. 

She said her 10-year-old son was corresponding with Rickey Rea Rowlett while he was in jail.  Last week, Rowlett was convicted of continuous sex abuse of a child under 14 years old. 

"The school that I trusted to protect my child had sent his personal information out," the boy's mother said.

She said her son was one of a dozen students who started corresponding with Rowlett in December as a class pen-pal project at Trinity Lutheran School.  She said the correspondence started without her permission. 

"I felt like she totally violated their trust and lied to them," the mother said. "It took me 30 seconds to do a Google search and figure out what he had been indicted for, what he had been convicted of."

Her family filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the school.  It claimed the school failed to protect children by allowing them to have contact with someone indicted for promotion of child pornography and allowing the release of children's private information into the state prison system through the communication with Rowlett. 

"I think what happened here is a gross abuse of trust," said attorney Charles Peckham. "We'd like to effectuate some change. We'd like Trinity to understand, Trinity Lutheran, to understand that what they did was in fact an abuse of the trust that was placed in them."

In response, the school released a letter sent to parents.  It said, in part: "This is a difficult situation and we want to assure you that we are doing everything we can to fully investigate and address it and make sure it never happens again."

Last week, Rowlett was sentenced to 50 years in prison.  Prosecutors in Comal County, Texas, discovered the letters, from children, as Rowlett was being moved.

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