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Texas Students Pen Pals With Suspected Child Molester

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File photo of a classroom. (credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of a classroom. (credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

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NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (CBS Houston/AP) — A Christian school in Houston has been sued after some fourth-graders became pen pals with a jailed man later convicted of child abuse.

Officials with Trinity Lutheran Church and School say teacher Laura Perry put together the voluntary project and is a family friend of 55-year-old Rickey Rowlett.

Perry, who allegedly told students Rowlett was falsely accused, is no longer with the school. School administrators said Wednesday that the project was unacceptable and security has been updated.

Comal County District Attorney Jennifer Tharp told the Houston Chronicle that the pen pal relationship between the students and the accused man is “very alarming.” A lawsuit was filed by parents of two children from the school on March 27.

“Trinity has allowed, in fact encouraged … minor children to have contact and communication with a child molester and a person indicted for promotion of child pornography,” attorney Charles H. Peckman stated in the lawsuit. “Trinity has approved and condoned the release of identification of minor children’s information for distribution with the jail and prison systems.”

The suit goes on to state that Pastor Michael Dorn approved of the pen pal arrangement, but that only Perry and another administrator knew about it, according to the Houston Chronicle.

“There’s a long history of churches corresponding with inmates,” John Menke, chairman of the school’s governing board, told the Houston Chronicle. “In this case, it was really poorly handled. We didn’t have good information or know the type of charges pending.”

Jurors in New Braunfels on March 22 sentenced Rowlett to 50 years in prison after his conviction for sexual abuse of a girl. Investigators discovered the letters following the conviction.

The principal has been put on paid leave. Perry couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Menke told the Chronicle that a private investigator has been hired, vowing to enact new security policies and protocols.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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