A teacher in Richmond, California, has been arrested for allegedly molesting more than half a dozen students over the past year, authorities said.
Anessa Paige Gower, a 35-year-old biology teacher at Making Waves Academy in Richmond, is facing 29 individual criminal counts after allegedly engaging in “numerous acts of a sexual nature with minors” between 2021 and 2022, the Costa District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Gower was taken into custody on April 6 at Sacramento International Airport upon returning to California from Hawaii, police said. She is currently being held in Richmond.
Authorities confirmed the case involves seven minors, adding that due to the ages of the alleged victims, their identities won’t be disclosed.
“Investigators took statements from the victims and witnesses about a number of incidents involving sex acts with minors, inappropriate touching, and sharing sexually graphic photos over online platforms,” the statement explains.
Alton Nelson Jr., the CEO at Making Waves Academy, said Gower violated the school’s policy and was fired immediately after evidence of sexual misconduct emerged, KRON4 reported.
Nelson said in a statement obtained by the network that school officials led the investigation and informed authorities as soon as they learned about “highly concerning allegations” against Gower that involved multiple students.
“We immediately shared that information with authorities who are reviewing the matter. That teacher is no longer employed by Making Waves Academy and we have reached out to parents, students and faculty to provide support where it might be needed. There is nothing more important than the health, safety and well-being of our students,” Nelson said.
Making Waves Academy is a charter school for fifth through twelfth graders. According to its website, over 1,100 students are enrolled in the school.
Gower is not the first teacher who has been accused of child molestation in recent years at the charter school.
Ronald David Guinto, 38, is serving a 931-year sentence after being convicted in 2017 of molesting 15 boys when he was their teacher at the Richmond school, The Associated Press reported.
Guinto worked at the charter school from 2011 to 2013 and used a youth program he founded called “Camp Epic” as a ruse to get close to his preferred victim type, mostly boys aged 11 to 12, police said.
In late 2013, Guinto’s abuse came to light after several local law enforcement agencies conducted an investigation into allegations made against him. He was then briefly hired by the West Contra Costa School District before the allegations against him were made public.
In 2015, 12 former students of Guinto sued the charter school. In 2020, they received a combined $10.9 million settlement in a lawsuit against the school.
Making Waves Academy school officials have maintained that they did not know about Guinto’s sexual abuse of students and pointed out that the teachers’ youth camp was not a Making Waves-sanctioned event.
From NTD News