Jeffrey Robert Sears Jr., 29, of the 400 block of Luther Road in Glen Burnie, is facing more than a dozen criminal counts, including sexual abuse of a minor, sexual solicitation of a minor and assault. He was held Thursday in lieu of $3 million bail.
The allegations involve three girls who were ages 15 and 16 at the time of the sexual activity that occurred between November 2009 and October of this year, police spokesman Justin Mulcahy said at a news conference held jointly by police and school officials. But, he said, police were not certain those were the only victims.
“As a mother, a grandmother and someone who has spent my adult life in education, these charges make me absolutely sick to my stomach,” said Anne Arundel County School Board President Patricia R. Nalley.
She said the idea that someone would take advantage of a child “whose future they have been entrusted with cuts me to the core.”
Nalley said school officials took quick and appropriate action as soon as the allegations surfaced, though the charging documents indicate that there had been signs that inappropriate behavior may have been taking place. For instance, a coach told police he knew that a victim spent her lunch period in Sears’ classroom on many days.
The charging documents indicated that when confronted by school administrators, both Sears and one of the girls denied any sexual relationship.
“We are a school that is hurting right now,” said Vickie Plitt, principal of the high school. She said she is heartbroken that students and staff at the school have been cast in a “negative light” because of the “apparent actions of someone we all trusted.”
She praised the students, employees parents and community and said they will pull together to deal with this situation.
Sears was pulled from the classroom after an assistant coach at the high school brought allegations involving a student to the attention of school administrators, said Superintendent of Schools Kevin M. Maxwell. A schools spokesman said Sears was an assistant boys junior varsity coach starting in 2008 but has been removed from the post because of the allegations.
The Anne Arundel County Board of Education contacted the Department of Social Services on Nov. 1 about a possible sexual relationship between a teacher and a student at Glen Burnie High School, according to police.
Sears was removed from the classroom, and Maxwell said Thursday that once Sears was charged he was suspended without pay, pending the outcome of efforts to fire him.
During the investigation, police said, three female victims were identified. All three had sexual encounters with Sears while attending Glen Burnie High School, according to police.
“The incidents took place both on and off campus and during regular school hours and off hours,” said Mulcahy.
Two of the girls sent Sears photos and text messages, according to charging documents. Sears and one victim exchanged more than 1,000 text messages, and one of the victims told police that Sears sent her a sexual video of himself, according to the documents.
Sears asked one of the victims to call him by a code name in front of her friends, the documents show. The name she chose was “Maggie,” Sears’ cat’s name. One of the relationships started after Sears bought the girl tennis shoes, according to the documents.
One sexual encounter occurred in a school stairwell at his insistence, according to the charging documents. During the incident, he became “vicious” and the victim began bleeding, and he later told the girl it was a “little special moment,” documents show.
The Sun is not identifying the girls due to the nature of the allegations. Reached by phone, the father of one of the victims said his daughter would not comment on the allegations until all facts came to light.
Plitt said that as the investigation continues, school officials plan to look into incidents that apparently went undetected at school to determine if policies should be changed.
On ratemyteachers.com, a website where students, parents and others rate teachers, two students posted comments about Sears.
“Mr. Sears is the best teacher ever! I was in his class before I switched schools and I couldn’t ask for a better teacher,” one wrote.
He came to the school in August 2006 and taught English while serving as a class adviser and a basketball coach, according to his LinkedIn profile. A graduate of Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, he previously taught high school English from August 2004 to June 2006 in Culpeper County, Va., schools, according to the profile.
Charging documents also describe him as a teacher in the AVID program, a program geared toward helping students prepare for college.
Sears was taken into custody at the Eastern District police station in Pasadena about 8:15 a.m. Thursday, police said.