A California biology teacher is facing 29 felony charges after being arrested for allegedly molesting at least seven students at a San Francisco Bay area charter school.
Anessa Paige Gower, 35, had been employed by the Making Waves Academy in Richmond, CA, a charter school that caters to over a thousand students from fifth to twelfth grade. She was arrested on April 6 at the Sacramento International Airport as she was returning from a trip to Hawaii with an unidentified companion, KTVU reported.
At the time of her arrest, Gower was transported to Contra Costa County Main Jail in Martinez where she is being held with bail set at $1.2 million. The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office released a statement on Friday.
As part of the investigation into the alleged crimes that took place between Oct 2021 and Feb 2022, “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.”
Two of the students had come forward to the academy’s administrators who then notified Richmond police. The investigation into Gower’s alleged conduct had begun on Feb 18 and, after questioning the first complainants, an additional five students came forward with their own allegations against the former biology teacher.
Contra Costa County deputy district attorney discussed the findings from search warrants executed on electronic data that provided evidence of the transmission of sexually graphic images and told KTVU, “Anybody that you respect, they shouldn’t have open lines of communication regardless. There’s boundaries that we should keep, and so parents just need to continue to be vigilant on what their children are doing.”
In a statement from the academy’s CEO Alton B. Nelson Jr., the school official corroborated the timeline of events saying, “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.”
“During the course of an investigation into allegations that one of our teachers violated school policy, we learned of additional highly concerning allegations involving that teacher’s conduct,” Nelson also wrote.
However, his insistence that “There is nothing more important than the health safety and well-being of our students,” falls flat when considering that this is not the first such instance to occur at his school.
While employed at Making Waves Academy between 2011 and 2013, Ronald Guinto was charged with 87 felony counts and convicted of molesting 15 boys, mostly aged 11 and 12, at his “Camp Epic” which he used to get time alone with the young boys. Guinto’s sentencing came in 2017 when he was sent to High Desert State Prison for a duration of 931 years.
Making Waves Academy settled a lawsuit with the victims for $10.9 million.
Gower’s arraignment was scheduled for Monday at Contra Costa County Superior Court.
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