HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A former teacher at Sutton Elementary in Houston is behind bars after being accused of molesting several of his former students.
Manuel Edgardo Ponce was arrested Friday afternoon, according to the Harris County District Attorney's Office. He's facing five charges, four being felonies, in connection with allegations of mistreatment of eight students. The charges range from indecent exposure to indecency with a child, and charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child.
On Saturday morning, Ponce's bond was set at $205,000.
The 45-year-old was holding his hands together and looking down during most of the hearing.
"The allegations of the case are a concern. Given that you were previously employed as a second-grade teacher, and several of your former students have made outcries of inappropriate behavior at the school," the hearing officer said.
Ponce resigned from the HISD elementary school in July 2022. However, the investigation did not get underway until this fall, when the first of several children made an outcry.
In May 2018, Ponce was named Teacher of the Year for Sutton Elementary.
The mother says her daughter, along with multiple other young girls, was touched and molested by Ponce in his classroom over the past several years. She only learned about it in December.
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"So, he would set her in his lap during class and put her hand under her shirt and rub her back," she said in a previous report. "This happened during the entire school year. And he would peek inside her pants to see if she is OK."
According to the mother, the first child said something in October, and since then, multiple children have come forward. The Department of Family Protective Services has interviewed more than a dozen children since the first allegation, the mother said.
Last week, DFPS released the following statement:
"Child Protective Services is working with law enforcement to investigate allegations of sexual abuse at Sutton Elementary. Once our investigation is complete, results will be sent to Sutton Elementary, Houston ISD and the Texas Education Agency," Melissa Lanford, DFPS spokesperson, said.
"We've been trying to meet with the principal. We finally had a meeting," the mother, who said the school held a brief meeting and sent a vague letter home to parents at the end of January, told ABC13 in a previous report.
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ABC13 obtained a copy of the letter, which says:
Please be advised that allegations of inappropriate conduct were reported to administration following a resignation of a former employee. The person is no longer employed by HISD, and a thorough investigation is being conducted by the HISD Police Department.
Due to the pending investigation and student privacy rights, HISD cannot provide additional information at this time. Please know that HISD and Sutton Elementary value your students and their safety.
We will ensure classroom instruction continues without interruption.
We appreciate your continued support.
Beatrice Akala, Ed.D. Principal
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WATCH: Former Sutton Elementary teacher of the year arrested on accusations of molesting students