Former Vidor Independent School District teacher Sondra Reed now faces criminal prosecution for engaging in what prosecutors say was an improper relationship between the educator and a student.
The indictment was filed June 25 in the 128th District Court, and Orange County District Attorney John Kimbrough signed off that the case is ready for trial on June 26.
Orange County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Clint Hodgkinson said Reed has since surrendered herself in Jefferson County and is out on $5,000 bond.
The indictment only mentioned a single student, although The Examiner’s investigation discovered several more complaints against the former educator.
Chad and Sondra Reed were both placed on paid administrative leave in December 2013 following VISD’s receipt of an anonymous letter containing photos, and on Jan. 20, VISD board members voted unanimously to terminate the pair.
According to a press release from VISD superintendent Dr. Jay Killgo shortly after the incident, prior to the winter break VISD received an anonymous letter alleging Sondra Reed, a special education teacher at Oak Forest Elementary School, had engaged in “inappropriate conduct” with former and current students. According to police, the letter contained printed photos from a November 2013 party as proof of the writer’s allegations. Sondra Reed was immediately placed on administrative leave, and an investigation ensued.
During the investigation into Sondra Reed’s alleged – and initially unspecified – inappropriate conduct, VISD administrators received information that Chad Reed, Sondra’s husband and a teacher at the Vidor Junior High School, had also engaged in inappropriate conduct involving VISD students. He was immediately placed on administrative leave, as well. The Reeds were both suspended in December 2013, and on Jan. 20, 2014, VISD board trustees voted unanimously to approve their termination. The couple originally appealed the decision, but later negotiated with the board and VISD’s attorney Sarah Leon. March 27, the VISD School Board voted unanimously to approve Sondra Reed’s termination and Chad Reed’s resignation. As a stipulation of the agreements with the Reeds, the couple had to drop their termination appeals filed with the Texas Education Agency, and civil litigation filed against VISD by the couple was also dismissed.
According to witness statements, the Reeds’ minor daughter had overnight guests in November 2013, also minors, and photos of the girls with what appear to be test tube shooters of an alcoholic beverage were produced. The photos of the young girls with the “Tooter’s Appletini” shooters also allegedly show Chad Reed in the background, evidence submitted to the police and other investigating agencies.
Also according to several witness statements, one of the minor’s claimed to have caught Sondra Reed “having sex with someone” in a truck outside the residence. Witnesses also allege that a male present at the home “tore the handle off the truck” in an attempt to break up the rendezvous. The attempt to intervene was thwarted, however, the witness reported, when Sondra Reed left the residence with the person in the truck, eventually returning home to everyone “screaming and crying,” essentially ending the party.
Investigators conducted numerous interviews in late 2013. While some interviewees suggested Sondra Reed not only plied teenagers with alcohol contrary to the law but also engaged in sexual acts with underage students, District Attorney Kimbrough said the evidence collected against Reed was presented to the grand jury, and she was only indicted on one charge of misconduct with a single student who was over the age of consent.
The age of consent is 17 in Texas.
“The case was presented, and the grand jury indicted her,” he explained in an interview. “It’s not an age case; it’s just a student enrolled in there (at VISD). So, it’s not an underage student. They just indicted on the improper relationship.”
Kimbrough said the grand jury evaluated the evidence and were only confident in alleging misconduct with the single student for a variety of reasons.
“The only thing we can really comment on is what the grand jury charged her with,” said Kimbrough. “There could be a lot of other possibilities. They just didn’t happen. And, just so you know, there is a three-year statute of limitations on this crime. So, by the time this thing got reported, and the police started investigating it, some of this stretches back, at least some of the allegations go back in time, but if those cases haven’t already been indicted, you can’t. That’s what the statutes of limitations are.”
Kimbrough agreed that the statute to which he referred pertained to the improper relationship between educator and student charge she now faces. However, statutes pertaining to sexual misconduct with persons under the age of consent could go on for a lot longer. For example, such was the case with some Catholic priests who were charged with taking advantage of children under their power years or even decades after alleged misconduct against the minors.
“Well, there are statutes of limitations on those too, and they can vary based on the ages of the children,” Kimbrough asserts. “Some of the statutes of limitations had run on some of the allegations that the police were looking at. So, the only thing that the grand jury could do was to act on evidence that they felt there was enough to charge that were still viable cases.”
He said regarding statutes of limitations pertaining to minor victims, the laws have changed over time, and the issue is complicated.
“It’s a real complex (process),” said Kimbrough. “Years ago, it used to be 10 years. That was real easy. Now, it goes on and on if there’s DNA; it depends on when this happened. It changes on the exact crime and what year it occurred. It’s just not something you can say, it’s five years, it’s 10 years.”
He said now that Reed has bonded out of jail, she will be arraigned before trial is set.
Kimbrough said if the case goes to trial, jurors may or may not hear other allegations made against Reed by current and former VISD students. He said the judge would determine whether or not those statements are admissible.
“That’s what trials are about, admissibility and evidence,” he said. “That’s what lawyers are arguing.”
Reed faces a wide range of punishment if convicted, Kimbrough said.
“This is a second-degree felony. The range of punishment is two years probation to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.”
Judge Courtney Arkeen is presiding over the case.