Education

Azle ISD teacher accused of sexually assaulting student

The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office arrested an Azle ISD special education teacher who was charged with sexual assault of a student on Tuesday.

Christina Starnes, 37, is accused of having oral sex with a minor in the back of a car on Jan. 27. She is charged with sexual assault, improper relations with a student and indecent fondling.

On Jan. 28, a family member of the student met with the superintendent about the alleged assault. The Azle Independent School District placed Starnes on administrative leave and called local law enforcement.

“Azle ISD takes all allegations of misconduct seriously, and the protection and well-being of our students is a top priority,” a spokesman for the district said. “The district acted swiftly upon reports of misconduct by an employee.”

Defense Attorney Benson Varghese, of Varghese Summersett, is representing Starnes. In a statement, he said they are waiting for the prosecutor’s office to turn over discovery regarding the allegations.

“The information that was released to the media has not yet been released to us,” he said in the statement. “We are in the process of conducting our own investigation. We are confident there is more to this story than what is being portrayed in the press and look forward to our opportunity to defend Ms. Starnes in open court.”

On Jan. 27, the student came home late and was acting strangely, according to an arrest warrant affidavit from the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office. His grandmother asked to look at his phone and saw texts between him and Starnes, who was his special education teacher. The student told her and another family member that Starnes let him drive her car. He eventually said Starnes also kissed him and touched his penis, according to the affidavit.

The family member met with the superintendent the next day, and Starnes was placed on administrative leave. That same day, another teacher told Azle ISD Police Chief Darren Brockway she had just found out about the alleged assault as well.

According to the arrest affidavit, Starnes told a friend that she had been placed on administrative leave. She admitted to her friend that she had given a student oral sex, the affidavit states. Starnes’ friend immediately told a teacher at Azle ISD what Starnes told her.

On Jan. 29, Tarrant County Detective Michael Weber started to investigate the allegations. He spoke with the student and his family members. The student told him that Starnes was driving on Liberty School Road and he was in the backseat of the car on Jan 27. Starnes pulled over, got into the back seat and touched the student underneath his clothes, he said. The student told Weber that Starnes put her mouth on his penis. He told her to stop, and Starnes drove him home, the affidavit says.

On Feb. 2, the student pointed out the spot where he said the assault happened. Starnes, who worked at Azle ISD for six years, resigned the same day. Starnes was named the Teacher of the Year at Santo J. Forte High School in 2016, according to the school’s Twitter account.

Survivors of sexual abuse who need help can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or chat confidentially with a trained staff member online at rainn.org

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Kaley Johnson is a breaking news and enterprise reporter. She majored in investigative reporting at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has a passion for bringing readers in-depth, complex stories that will impact their lives. Send your tips via email or Twitter.