Texas teacher who flashed a broad smile in her mugshot pleads guilty to having sex with 17-year-old student
Sarah Madden Fowlkes, 28, has pleaded guilty to charges of improper relationship between an educator and a student. She is seeking a plea deal.
The science teacher from Texas who flashed a broad smile in her mugshot after being arrested on suspicion of engaging in sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old student has now pleaded guilty to the crime. In March 2017, 28-year-old Sarah Fowlkes was arrested on charges of engaging in "sexual contact with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of" the unnamed student.
Fowlkes was suspended from teaching at Lockhart High School in Texas after her arrest. She faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of the alleged illicit relationship during a trial. According to KVUE, the teacher submitted her guilty plea to a Caldwell County court on Wednesday. However, the judge is yet to accept her filing.
He would have to serve four years deferred adjudication, surrender her teaching license, and pay a hefty fine if the plea is accepted. The amount of the proposed fine is yet to be revealed. According to Texas state law, deferred adjudication is a type of probation - once the term is completed, the accused will not have a conviction on their record.
It could take as many as eight weeks to consider Fowlkes guilty plea, the presiding judge said Wednesday. Jason Nassour, the lawyer representing her, said that she would withdraw the plea if the judge declines to accept the terms.
Fowlkes went viral on social media after she grinned ear-to-ear in her mugshot. Nassour said at the time that his client was "smiling because she knows she is innocent." Speaking to KXAS, Nassour said, "This isn't a guilty person sitting there like they just got caught. When everything's fleshed out, it won't be as it appears."
The 28-year-old, who has taught Biology at Lockhart High School since October 2014, was booked into Caldwell County Jail just hours after celebrating her birthday with her husband. She turned herself in after Lockhart law enforcement obtained an arrest warrant. According to Nassour, Fowlkes "was arrested on the statement of a 17-year-old kid with no corroborating evidence."
On March 10, a school administrator contacted authorities about an inappropriate relationship between a student and a teacher, The Houston Chronicle reports. Investigative officers later found evidence of text messages exchanged between her and the pupil. "Their contact was of a sexual nature," said the police.
According to the San Antonio Express News, Police Chief Ernest Pedraza charged Fowlkes with engaging in "sexual contact with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of" the alleged victim. An improper relationship between a teacher and a student can land the former in prison for up to 20 years, as it amounts to a second-degree felony.
Lockhart authorities interviewed the 17-year-old student, who then admitted to having sexual encounters with Fowlkes. That said, Fowlkes - who is pending an appearance before the State Board for Educator Certification - was duly suspended by the Lockhart Independent School District.
Susan Bohn, the school superintendent, said: "Lockhart parents entrust their children to us every day, and it is something we do not take lightly. Student safety is the district's most important priority. As soon as we learned of the report, we acted swiftly to involve law enforcement and CPS to conduct a thorough investigation. The district does not and will not tolerate any improper communication or contact between a teacher and child."
Fowlkes' since-deleted profile page on the school's website read: "I have very high expectations of myself as a teacher as well as of my students and I hope that this will be a formula for achievement. I want this to be an enjoyable year for all of my students but also a productive, challenging and encouraging year with success for everyone."
This is the first time law enforcement in Lockhart has investigated an educator for having a sexual relationship with a student, per reports. Speaking to KXAN, Detective Jesse Bell said, "Seventeen years old is obviously older but at the same time it doesn't make anything right. If the kid is in school, parents trust the school to take care of their kids so it's definitely not right — that a teacher in a position of power over a student be able to take advantage of a student."