Accusations against VISD teachers appealing proposed termination revealed
Two former Vidor Independent School District teachers, a husband and wife first on paid administrative leave and now facing termination amid allegations of sexual misconduct and providing alcohol to minors, are preparing for upcoming appeal hearings with the Texas Education Agency.
The former educators, Chad and Sondra Reed, are purportedly maintaining their innocence but will have to answer to those allegations before TEA independent hearing examiners Yvonne Taylor and Devon Decker in separate hearings in coming weeks. In the meantime, agencies including Child Protective Services, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the VISD administration and VISD Police are investigating and reviewing evidence in the case, which reportedly includes numerous interviews with current and former VISD students and their parents and photographs related to the accusations against the former educators.
The Reeds also face continuing scrutiny pertaining to pending criminal charges, according to Orange County District Attorney John Kimbrough.
Anonymous letter sparks investigation
Chad and Sondra Reed were both placed on payed administrative leave in December 2013 following VISD’s receipt of an anonymous letter containing photos, and on Jan. 20, VISD board members voted unanimously to terminate the pair.
According to a press release from VISD superintendent Dr. Jay Killgo shortly after the incident, prior to the winter break VISD received an anonymous letter alleging Sondra Reed, a special education teacher at Oak Forest Elementary School, had engaged in “inappropriate conduct” with former and current students. According to police, the letter was in the superintendent’s office when found and contained printed Twitter photos from a November 2013 party as proof of the writer’s allegations. Sondra Reed was immediately placed on administrative leave, and an investigation ensued.
During the investigation into Sondra Reed’s alleged – and initially unspecified – inappropriate conduct, VISD administrators received information that Chad Reed, Sondra’s husband and a teacher at the Vidor Junior High School, had also engaged in inappropriate conduct involving VISD students. He was immediately placed on administrative leave.
Based upon the accusations and information gathered during the school district investigation, Killgo recommended termination of both educators to the school board at their Jan. 20 meeting. The board accepted Killgo’s recommendations. Both of the Reeds have requested an administrative hearing to contest the charges against them before final action is taken on the proposed terminations.
Since the Reed’s termination, investigators have been probing into the November 2013 incident at the Reed home, reported by several persons close to the family and to the investigation. According to witness statements, the Reeds’ minor daughter had overnight guests, also minors, and photos of the girls with what appear to be test tube shooters of alcoholic beverage were produced. The photos of the young girls with the “Tooter’s Appletini” shooters also allegedly show Chad Reed in the background, evidence submitted to the police and other investigating agencies.
But as parties also reported to police, an evening of alcoholic indulgence was not all the fateful night had in store for the Reeds and their guests. According to several witness statements, parties at the home were awakened to the sound of screaming as one of the minor’s claimed to have caught Sondra Reed “having sex with someone” in a truck outside the residence. Witnesses also allege that a male present at the home “tore the handle off the truck” in an attempt to break up the rendezvous. The attempt to intervene was thwarted, however, the witness reported, when Sondra Reed left the residence with the person in the truck, eventually returning home to everyone “screaming and crying,” essentially ending the party.
Investigators conducted numerous interviews in late 2013 and are continuing in that effort to the present day as names of parties who potentially have information about the alleged misconduct continue to surface. To summarize the allegations reportedly made against Sondra Reed, the former Vidor teacher not only plied teenagers with alcohol contrary to the law, but also engaged in sexual acts with underage students.
Information provided to the investigating agencies includes evidence that at least two young men admitted they had sexual relations with Sondra Reed while she was employed with VISD and while they were both minors, and, in interviews, involved parties speculate up to 12 boys could be “on the list” of those who had sexual relations with the accused pedophile.
One of the reported victims, who is still a minor and the former boyfriend of the Reeds’ minor daughter, alleges the affair between he and Sondra Reed started when he was only 14 years old. An Examiner investigation revealed the boy once lived with the Reeds. Reports also indicate Sondra Reed provided alcohol for him while he was at the Reed home. According to a witness statement, even after he broke things off with Sondra Reed, she continued to attempt contact with the minor teen. And when he blocked her number, she allegedly called from a different number to try to reach him.
Another youth was merely 16 when his alleged affair with Sondra Reed started, according to witness statements. Now, the man, reportedly a friend and classmate of Sondra Reed’s son, is in his early twenties. Statements revealed that accusations against Sondra Reed involving the youth include her transmission of pornographic images of herself to the young man via text messaging, text messages describing herself masturbating, and having sex with the male, all while he was a minor and a student at Vidor High School.
Several witnesses told investigators they observed Sondra Reed engage in “foreplay” with youths visiting her home and elsewhere, and almost all of the reports provided to investigators allege minors were given alcohol while at the Reed home.
That is of no surprise to at least one Vidor resident who said he remembers when the Reeds were moved from Vidor High School to the junior high and elementary school. He claimed the teachers were part of a “party crowd” inclusive of a few teachers and several students to whom the teachers provided alcohol.
Parents of the alleged victims have also spoken out against Sondra Reed in interviews, all obviously furious and some who feel betrayed by a person they not only thought of as a respected educator who took advantage of her position, but who they also thought of as a friend.
And the accusations go on and on.
So how did Sondra Reed answer investigators? Interviews with the Reeds are ongoing, but one statement to investigators seems to allude to the allegations mentioned by the Vidor resident, who wished to remain anonymous, pertaining to alcohol. She reportedly mentions to an interviewer that she “would not put herself in the situation she was in last year.”
But that’s not the real kicker: In the same statement in which she recalls her previous troubles at VISD, the former educator basically admits to having sex with two of the parties involved in the investigation, although “not while in school.”
CPS involvement, TEA hearing, potential criminal prosecution
When any type of abuse or sexual misconduct with minors is reported, CPS is required to investigate. CPS spokesperson Shari Pulliam said her office was indeed called in to investigate the allegations against the Reeds. All findings on the case go straight to the TEA for review, and she is not able to release those findings but confirmed that, currently, the Reeds’ minor daughter is living with them pending further action by the Orange County District Attorney and the TEA. She said CPS is still monitoring the situation.
So what lies ahead for the Reeds? In March, Sondra Reed will be in front of a TEA examiner to face the music and to explain to them why she feels she was unjustly terminated. Chad Reed’s hearing follows in April.
Pertaining to potential criminal charges, Orange County D.A. Kimbrough says he does expect to eventually bring criminal charges against the Reeds before the grand jury for indictment. However, he contends, more information is required.
“It’s not finished,” Kimbrough said of the investigation. “When it’s finished, we will present it to a grand jury.”
He said in criminal cases, the police often present him with what they believe to be a completed file, and he sends back the file for more information, and so on, until he considers the investigation “finished.” While it can be frustrating to law enforcement officers, Kimbrough said it is necessary for successful prosecution. He asserts that he has achieved favorable rulings in nine out of 10 cases of sexual misconduct by educators, with only one “going south.”
Kimbrough said he does not have a timeframe as to when the case will be presented to the grand jury but said he believes it will be in the coming months and before the end of the year. Kimbrough said that in cases where teachers have had sex with students who were considered “of age,” those convicted face probation. But because the accusers in this case were minors at the time they say they had sex with Sondra Reed, if she is convicted, she faces prison time.
“When the student is under age 17,” Kimbrough explained, “those cases result in penitentiary time.”
Jennifer Johnson contributed to this report.