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Affidavit: Teacher communicated in sexually explicit manner with student via Messenger app

The Fabens High School teacher accused of having an improper relationship with a student communicated with the student in a sexually explicit manner via Facebook Messenger, a criminal complaint obtained by ABC-7 states.

Joanna Atilano, 38, was arrested on Monday, January 28, 2019. Detectives with the sheriff’s office charged Atilano with Improper Relationship between Educator and Student and booked her into the El Paso County Detention Facility on a $10,000 bond. Online jail records show Atilano bonded out of jail.

The sheriff’s office began investigating Atilano on January 17, 2019. Deputies met with Interim Superintendent Michele B. Gonzalez, who told them she was made aware of an incident involving Atilano.

Gonzalez told deputies the grandmother of a student met with her that morning and showed Gonzalez a video found on the student’s phone. The video, the criminal complaint states, showed a woman exposing her breast. The grandmother told Gonzalez she recognized the woman seen in the video as Atilano. “The video showed the defendant Atilano rubbing her breast and nipple in a sexually explicit manner for the victim to see,” the criminal complaint states.

Later that day, deputies met with the student, who allegedly said he was messaging Atilano the night of January 16, 2019 at about 11 p.m. The student said Atilano told him she wanted to hear his voice and asked if she could call him instead.

Atilano allegedly proceeded to call the student, the criminal complaint states, via a Facebook Messenger video call. Atilano allegedly told the student she was afraid they would get caught talking and wanted to make sure nobody knew they were talking, the court document states.

“During the video phone call, Atilano told the victim she wanted to see his body and penis,” the court document states, adding Atilano is seen entering her closet to “expose her breast.” According to the criminal complaint, the student told Atilano he would not show her his genitalia.

Further, the student allegedly told investigators that in November 2018, Atilano messaged him after school and asked him to meet her at her classroom at Fabens High School. “The victim said that when he arrived to her classroom, Atilano tried kissing him and placed her hand over his penis,” the court document states.

According to her Texas Educator Certificate, Atilano has been certified to teach English, language arts, reading and English as a second language courses for grades 8-12. The criminal complaint states Atilano had been with the school district 12 years. Gonzalez, the interim superintendent with the Fabens Independent School District, emailed ABC-7 the following statement: “The employee is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. The district is working with law enforcement and they have our full cooperation.”

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