A teacher at a Christian school in Florida was arrested Tuesday and charged with having a lewd and lascivious sexual relationship with an underage special needs student.
Angela Stewart, 53, was taken into custody by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and charged with multiple counts of sexual misconduct with a female student at Lighthouse Christian School, where Stewart was employed.
The alleged victim’s parents and a concerned neighbor tracked Stewart and the girl to a local park on Saturday. They immediately reported the incident and their suspicions to the JSO. Amateur video obtained by local CBS and Fox affiliate WJAX captured the moment Stewart was discovered in her car with the alleged victim.
“On Saturday we went to St. James Place Park looking for the teacher and the student because we assumed that they were together,” the neighbor, whose name was not made public, told WJAX.
In charging documents, JSO personnel said they viewed screen shots of inappropriate conversations between Stewart and the alleged victim dating back to last November.
Lighthouse Christian School officials released a statement saying “saddened and shocked would be an understatement” about their reaction when they learned of the investigation.
Esther Skinner of Lighthouse Christian School said in a statement that the school was notified in late April by the Florida State Department of Children and Families of an anonymous complaint of abuse at home from a student at the school, which centers special needs students.
“Shortly after I was notified by Ms. Stewart that the same student initiated contact with Ms. Stewart over Facebook messenger asking for help because her mother was abusing her,” Skinner said. “Ms. Stewart shared with me that the student asked her to come pick her up from a nearby park and she did so.”
Skinner said Stewart was warned her actions were “totally out of line” with the school’s “strict policies regarding contact with students after hours.” Despite the warning, Skinner said Stewart insisted she had done nothing wrong and only wanted to help the student. After the sheriff's office notified the school Monday of the criminal investigation regarding Stewart, she was quietly sent home and arrested the following day.
Stewart faces four felony charges, including solicitation of or engagement in lewd conduct with a student by an authority figure, lewd and lascivious molestation on a minor; lewd and lascivious behavior with a person 12 or older but less than 16 years, and unlawful use of a two-way communication device. She remains in jail on a bond of $325,012.