UPDATED March 31.
A special education aide at Legacy High School in Mansfield Independent School District joins the growing list of Texas educators accused of sex crimes against students.
Diego Barona, 35, was arrested February 22 in Tarrant County and charged with sexual assault of a child younger than 17 years of age—a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
In Texas, the age of consent for sexual relations is 17.
According to the complaint, Barona assaulted the underage student on January 15.
The allegations in the complaint detail four types of sexual contact between the defendant and his victim.
Mansfield mom Myra Castles told Texas Scorecard that special education department staff received a text on January 30 saying Barona no longer worked for the district and not to talk about it.
On February 17, Principal Stephanie Bonneau notified Legacy High School families of an “active investigation” into whether an employee had an “inappropriate relationship” with a student.
Improper relationship between educator and student is also a second-degree felony, regardless of the student’s age.
Bonneau said Mansfield ISD had terminated Barona, who was not identified in the message, “in an abundance of caution” for student safety.
Since then, the district kept quiet about Barona’s identity and alleged crime until concerned parents tracked down Barona’s arrest information and publicized it on social media.
On March 23, a month after Barona’s arrest, Bonneau sent Legacy families a follow-up email and text acknowledging Barona’s arrest on charges of having sex with a student.
“I guess they knew the news was out,” said Castles. “They know I’m watching at all times.”
Barona’s educator certificate, issued by the State Board for Educator Certification, shows that he is “under review” by the Texas Education Agency.
His mother and brother are both special education teachers in the district, and Barona himself attended Mansfield schools.
Investigators say there may be other victims.
Barona’s next court appearance is set for May 30.
Texas Scorecard has reported on dozens of Texas educators accused of sex crimes involving students and other minors, and more “bad apples” are being charged almost every day.
The parent-led education watchdog group Texans Wake Up recently began tracking educator misconduct cases.
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