A teacher in Riverside, Calif., was arrested at Encore High School for the Arts on Monday on suspicion of having an inappropriate relationship with a female student, KTLA reports.
The victim, who police say is 14 or 15 years old, told the Riverside Police Department that the relationship with Camryn Zelinger, 32, had been going on for “several months.”
Zelinger had been engaging in “inappropriate physical contact and communications” with the student for a couple of months, police said in a news release. The suspected abuse was reported by the victim’s mother.
According to the news release, Zelinger was arrested at the school on Monday and charged with “suspicion of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor and annoying or molesting a child under 18 years old.” She has since been fired from the school.
Parents of other students at the school told KTLA that the teacher, who was recently married, would “request other teachers remove the female student from their classroom so she could spend time with the student.”
But one parent, Tiffany Florez, found the allegations hard to believe. “The way she is and the way she interacts with the children, you would never suspect. You would never think she would do something like that,” she said.
In a Wednesday press conference, the mother, whose name was not released in order to protect the identity of her minor daughter, said she instinctively suspected that something was wrong at school.
“She wouldn’t tell me, she was too afraid. She kept saying, ‘Nothing, mom, nothing, mom.’ But I knew something was wrong,” she said.
“When I finally found out something was going on, when she told me her teacher was molesting her — first period, eighth period, all throughout the day …” the mother trailed off as she broke down in tears.
She said she found evidence of the abuse on her daughter’s phone. “I’m a nosy mother. And I grabbed her phone. And I looked at texts from this teacher, sexting my baby over the phone, over the texts – just all this stuff,” she said.
The family’s attorney told KTLA that they were “disturbed” at the suggestion that the relationship was consensual. “This teacher used her position of power and trust to sort of manipulate this child into doing things that this child thought she had to do,” he said, adding that the victim “is legally incapable of forming consent.”
The mother of the teen said through her attorney that she decided to tell her story to potentially “protect other children.”
“I would like parents to know, pay attention to your children when they say something is going on or with their emotions, with their actions,” she told KTLA. “If they come and tell you, ‘My teacher touched me this way or this way,’ don’t brush it off, listen to them.”