A 31-year-old Texas teacher stands accused of having multiple sexual encounters with a 16-year-old high school boy in her capacity as a youth ministry volunteer.
Middle school teacher Nichole Marie Faires Andrews, 31, was arrested Tuesday and charged with the sexual assault of a child and an improper relationship between an educator and a student, according to Williamson County Jail Records. Police set her bail at $50,000. She bonded out of jail on Wednesday.
Andrews taught English Language Arts at Cedar Park Middle School in the Leander Independent School District from August 2015 until she resigned on November 6. The purported victim, a 16-year-old male minor, attended Vandegrift High School. The two met in June at The Church at Canyon Creek in Austin where Andrews volunteered as a youth administrator.
KXAN reported that, on October 25, the school district learned the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation into a possible inappropriate relationship between Andrews and the boy. Leander ISD placed Andrews on administrative leave that same day. School district officials stated these sexual acts did not occur at any district functions or facilities.
On November 28, the teenage boy told police investigators that he had “sexual contact” with Andrews 11 to 12 times, according to the arrest warrant obtained by the Austin American-Statesman. The alleged victim also told police that Andrews sent him a topless photo of herself over social media. Court documents revealed that Andrews knew the teen was a student at the high school when they had sex on June 1.
Monty Watson, the senior pastor of the church, told KXAN: “Our hearts go out to the victim and the family, and we ask for prayer for all involved. We are working with the authorities and fully cooperating with this investigation.”
If convicted, Andrews faces up to 20 years in prison. These offenses are second degree felonies.
This year, Texas lawmakers passed Senate Bill 7 to curtail the state’s vexing epidemic of educator-student sexual misconduct. Cases soared over the past nine years, resulting in a record 302 investigations opened by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in 2016-17. Breitbart Texas reported this reflected a jump of 36 percent from the 222 cases opened in 2015-16, and a 145 percent increase since 2008-09 when the TEA began tracking these illicit interludes. That year, they reported 123 cases.
In May, Governor Greg Abbott signed SB 7 into law and it went into effect on September 1. It closes loopholes, imposes stiffer penalties on those convicted of improper relationships with students or minors, and holds other school administrators to account with jail time and fines if they fail to report this wanton behavior.
Before SB 7, it was not a crime when an educator had an intimate sexual affair with a student who was 17, the age of consent, and if the teacher worked in a different school district than where the student attended, or when no sexual contact occurred but the adult initiated the solicitation of a romantic relationship with a student, Breitbart Texas reported. SB 7 criminalized such actions.
Additionally, education professionals convicted of sexual misconduct will now lose their teaching credentials and forfeit their pensions even when they only receive deferred adjudication as punishment.
The law also requires teachers, in general, to attend ongoing professional development classes that reinforce appropriate boundaries, relationships, and communications with students. SB 7 mandates that school districts adopt written policies that clearly define appropriate electronic communications among faculty, staff, and students to thwart social media communications from spiraling off into lewd text messaging and inappropriate sexual activities.
According to KXAN, the TEA opened 68 cases of improper educator relationships with a student or minor between September 1 through November 30.