'Complete disappointment': Cleveland ISD teacher, church youth pastor charged with sex assault

ByDerrick Lewis KTRK logo
Thursday, October 20, 2022
Cleveland ISD teacher, church youth pastor charged with sex assault
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Cleveland Middle School teacher and church youth pastor Alexander Oveal is accused of sexually assaulting a student, Liberty County officials say.

CLEVELAND, Texas (KTRK) -- A one-time Teacher of the Year at Cleveland Middle School and youth pastor is accused of sexually assaulting a student.

Alexander Oveal was booked into the Liberty County Jail on Oct. 10, within 36 hours of getting the allegations, and given a $100,000 bond.

Records show Oveal posted bond and was released on Oct. 11.

Shortly after his arrest, the Cleveland Independent School District immediately told parents through social media and later sent a letter home on Tuesday, when students returned to school from fall break.

The district says the charge follows an investigation involving a young girl.

The Liberty County Sheriff's Office said it is continuing to interview other students and is urging other possible victims to come forward.

The district's superintendent, Stephen McCanless, told Eyewitness News that before Oveal started, he went through training on the educator's code of ethics and passed the background check on a state and national level.

"Cleveland ISD works very hard to select great staff. They go through a rigorous background check," McCanless said. "When a staff member chooses to violate that and break that trust, it is a complete disappointment on my part."

He said the district got word of the allegations and immediately looked into it with the school district's police.

"Anytime allegations come in, of course, you want to verify them. You want to make sure allegations are creditable," he said.

The district's leader said he doesn't believe any other students are involved and says the victim is currently in a different school district.

"Sometimes an employee is going to make a bad decision," McCanless said. "Bad on their part and even worse on the district's part, because it makes parents start questioning. Are other students involved? Are other staff members involved?"

While Oveal is currently on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, McCanless wants parents to know the district is there for them with full transparency.

"We're going to stand beside the parents and the community through this and hopefully keep their trust and rebuild any trust we may have lost with them because we are here to work as partners with them," he said.

The People's Church of Houston, Church of God in Christ, confirmed that Oveal is a youth pastor and president of the youth department. The church would not answer any other questions.

Teachers of Tomorrow recognized Oveal as a middle school teacher of the year for 2021 to 2022.

Then back in 2019, the district tweeted that the seventh-grade Texas history teacher at Cleveland Middle School had won the Teacher of the Week.

The Liberty County Sheriff's Office, as well as the District Attorney's Office, says they have interviewed several students at the middle school and plan to continue those interviews throughout the investigation.