Former HISD teacher appears in court on accusations of molesting students at Sutton Elementary

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Tuesday, February 14, 2023
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HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A former Houston Independent School District teacher accused of molesting several students appeared in court Monday morning.

Manuel Edgardo Ponce, 45, was arrested on Feb. 10 after multiple students came forward and accused him of inappropriate behavior inside his classroom at Sutton Elementary for several years.

He is facing four felony charges, ranging from indecent exposure with a child and charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child.

During the hearing, details were read on what Ponce is accused of doing.

ORIGINAL REPORT: Former Sutton Elementary teacher of the year arrested on accusations of molesting students

Court records reveal that Ponce would line his class up for bathroom breaks and call the students individually back inside the classroom. That's when the alleged crimes would occur.

In one case, he would allegedly touch the girls under their underwear. In another case, he allegedly made a student expose her breasts and felt the student over her underwear. He reportedly touched a student in her underwear and "rubbed the area with his finger," court documents read.

The allegations were said to happen over two or three months, court records say.

On one occasion, it happened during a "pajama day" at the school. One victim said that it happened on her birthday.

Some teachers expressed concern that his class would take longer for bathroom breaks and would leave the class unattended.

After Ponce's arrest on Friday, he posted a $205,000 bail. Since he posted bond, he has been ordered to stay away from Sutton Elementary, schools, and any place where children gather.

He will also surrender his passport, have no drugs or alcohol, or have any contact with anyone under 17 years old, including the victims.

RELATED: Former Houston ISD elementary teacher's bond set at $205K after accusations of molestation

The investigation into Ponce, who was named Teacher of the Year in 2018, didn't get underway until this fall, just after he resigned in July 2022 after multiple outcries from students.

According to the mother of one victim, something was said in October, and since then, multiple children have come forward. The mother said that the Department of Family Protective Services had interviewed more than a dozen children since the first allegation.

ABC13 obtained the statement that Sutton Elementary sent out, which reads:

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

Sutton Elementary.