OHS clerk charged with improper relationship with student

The Odessa Police Department charged an Odessa High School clerk Wednesday after she reportedly exchanged sexually explicit text messages with a 17-year-old student, according to an OPD news release.

The relationship was first reported on Jan. 3, the release detailed, advising an OHS clerk, 26-year-old Elyssa Renteria Zuniga, had been involved in an improper relationship with a 17-year-old male student.

After interviewing both Zuniga and the student, both confirmed the sexually explicit text messages sent between them, the release stated, and Zuniga was charged with improper relationship between educator and student, a second-degree felony.

Ector County Independent School District Spokesman Mike Adkins said Zuniga had been employed since August of 2017 and was placed on administrative leave during the investigation and was fired after being charged.

An ECISD press release stated, to the best of their understanding, no physical relationship existed between the two.

“Unfortunately, this is a situation we have been through in the past. We are disappointed and angry to be facing it again,” the ECISD release said. “There is no excuse for our employees to misunderstand the seriousness of these actions.”

The release added ECISD requires sexual harassment training twice a year for its employees, which includes warnings of consequences for employee-student relationships.

Jail records show Zuniga was taken to the Ector County Detention Center Tuesday and that bond will be set today.

ECISD has dealt with a number of student teacher relationship accusations in the last five years.

Permian teacher J.D. Burns in 2016 was sentenced to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to four counts of improper relationship between an educator and a student, three counts of sexual assault of a child and one count of indecency with a child and one count of stalking.

On April 1, 2016, former Permian athletic trainer April Collins pleaded guilty to one count of improper relationship between an educator and a student and was sentenced to three years deferred adjudication probation.

Deferred adjudication is a type of probation that does not end in a conviction after entering a plea. If Collins successfully completes her probation she will not have a felony conviction.

Collins was originally indicted on four counts of improper relationship between an educator and a student, but three of the four counts were dismissed after the Eastland-based 11th Court of Appeals vacated them on the grounds the law at the time she was indicted under was unconstitutional.

That decision by the court of appeals was also referenced in the case against former Permian swim coach Kathryn Maples, whose three counts of improper relationship between an educator and a student were dismissed on Feb. 17, 2016.

On March 20, 2014, former Permian teacher Robert Young was acquitted on two counts of improper relationship between an educator and a student after being accused of entering a relationship with a then-18-year-old student.

In September of 2016, Alisha Carrasco Knighten was sentenced to six years probation and deferred adjudication, and ordered to pay a $500 fine, after pleading guilty to an improper relationship between educator and student. An arrest affidavit from the ECISD police department detailed that Knighten and an 18-year-old female Permian student had sex at Knighten’s residence in March 2014.