St. Thomas More Coach Fired Over Sexually Explicit Video to Teen Arrested by Feds in Youngsville, Louisiana
YOUNGSVILLE, La. (KPEL News) - Jacob De La Paz, a former math teacher and coach at St. Thomas More in Lafayette, has been arrested by agents with the Department of Homeland Security, the agency announced on Friday.
De La Paz was fired from the school after information regarding inappropriate communication with a Vermilion Parish student came to light earlier this week. A SnapChat video of the coach, shirtless, was leaked to social media, accusing him of sending the video to a minor.
In the video, he is describing a sexual fantasy and encouraging the video's recipient, who is allegedly a teen girl, to engage in sexual activity.
De La Paz was let go from the school earlier this week, and news of the scandal broke soon after. He served as a math teacher and a cross country coach at STM, and according to a school Facebook photo caption originally posted in August, had begun working there just this year. However, he is reported as having been abruptly removed from the school on Wednesday and was reprimanded for inappropriate contact with a student, according to KLFY.
Witnesses in the Youngsville area reported a massive law enforcement presence Friday as federal agents took De La Paz into custody. The Department of Homeland Security released a statement that afternoon.
“Special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Lafayette received information regarding a possible child exploitation event which led to the arrest of Jacob De La Paz on April 27 on violation of 18 USC 2251; Enticing a minor to produce child pornography/Child Sexual Assault Material,” the statement read. “He is currently in federal custody. As this is an ongoing investigation and additional charges may be pending, we are unable to provide additional information at this time. HSI worked jointly with the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, Vermillion Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana Bureau of Investigations during this investigation.”
De La Paz is currently being held at the St. Martin Parish Jail awaiting the U.S. Marshals Service, according to KLFY.
St. Thomas More's Response
When the De La Paz story began going viral on social media, Rev. Michael Russo at STM sent a message to parents with an update. His message was forwarded to KPEL News that day.
Dear STM Family,
Since yesterday, questions and concerns regarding STM faculty member, Mr. Jacob De La Paz, have been brought to the attention of the St. Thomas More administration. While the school is not at liberty to extensively discuss personnel matters due to legal restrictions, we can confirm that Mr. De La Paz is no longer employed by or associated with STM in any capacity as of yesterday. We can also confirm that we have no reports, evidence or reason to believe that Mr. De La Paz engaged in any type of inappropriate behavior or misconduct with any students at STM. On the contrary, by all accounts, he has been very effective as a teacher and coach with no complaints against him. While legal restrictions prevent me from saying much more, am also a pastor, and I feel obligated to make three brief points:
1 Whenever a teacher is hired at STM, due diligence is done by the school to check the person's background and qualifications. De La Paz came highly recommended by his former employer after an extended period of exemplary service, had passed a background check in Vermillion Parish and passed our own.
He was also safe environment trained. STM was made aware, up-front by Mr. De La Paz, of an isolated and imprudent infraction in his past.
Having passed a probation period and performing well (and without further incident) in his previous teaching position, Mr. De La Paz was offered a position at STM and, again, proved to be exceedingly effective as both a teacher and a coach.
2 Whenever a faculty member or student departs, there can be deep pain and sorrow for those involved, including extended family members and friends. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be sensitive to this fact - that people are hurting. Iask that you join me in prayer for all involved, for God's healing and for hearts to mend.
3 Finally, I assure you that the school is handling this situation in accord with proper legal procedures and diocesan policies. As always, I ask for your continued trust of our efforts as STM continues to strive for excellence in the formation of the mind, body and soul, staying rooted in our mission to form disciples according to Gospel truths and values.
As painful as these types of situations can be, they have the potential to make us stronger and to renew our determination to stay in the struggle of being a seeker of Truth and God's servant first. Thank you for your continued support and understanding.
The school did not respond to a request for comment from KPEL News. There has also been no update since De La Paz's Friday arrest.
Louisiana law is clear that teachers and coaches should not have any unapproved digital contact with their students and athletes. These rules are specifically written to highlight the dangers of teachers abusing their authority over their students and players. But there are no education-specific rules for teachers and coaches contacting students in other districts.
Multiple sources speaking to KPEL News on background questioned whether those laws should be expanded to include that scenario.