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Former Ryan High substitute arrested on charge of improper relationship between educator and student

Denton police arrested a former Ryan High School substitute teacher Thursday after investigators said he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student.

Spencer NewtonDenton Police Department
Spencer Newton
Denton Police Department

Spencer Newton, 26, turned himself into police and is being held in Denton City Jail on a $10,000 bail.

An improper student/teacher relationship is a second-degree felony and punishable by up to 20 years in state prison and a $10,000 fine.

Police launched an investigation in May after a Ryan staff member told administrators she saw Newton and the student leave the campus parking lot together in Newton's truck, according to an arrest affidavit.

When administrators spoke to the student, she told them she and Newton were in a sexual relationship that began in January through messages and nude photos on the social media application Snapchat. 

She later told police she performed oral sex on Newton twice and the pair had sex in a parking lot on Loop 288 in March. She said their last sexual encounter happened in early May in one of the school's portable buildings. He asked her to perform oral sex, but she declined because they were at school.

Although the affidavit said Newton resigned his position, Denton ISD spokesman Mario Zavala said Principal Vernon Reeves terminated the substitute and told him he was not welcome on campus. Newton told police he had been employed with the district since January.

Zavala said administrators immediately notified the State Board of Education, Child Protective Services and Lewisville ISD, where Newton also was a substitute. Denton ISD then turned over the investigation to police.

"In no way, shape or form do we tolerate this kind of conduct from any of our employees," Zavala said.

When investigators interviewed Newton, he initially denied the relationship but later said the two had sex in his truck. He said the student sent him nude photos on Snapchat, but he never sent any of himself.

He added that the student "threw herself" at him and "did not make it hard for him." When investigators asked why he engaged in sexual conduct, he said he was "still young" and "thinking with the wrong head."

The former substitute joins a long list of educators in Texas accused of having improper relationships with their students.

The Texas Education Agency said it investigated 222 cases of improper teacher-student relationships in the past fiscal year. The Dallas Morning News reported in January the agency had opened 97 new cases since Sept. 1, marking a 43 percent increase from the same period the previous year.

A new law going into effect Sept. 1 will saddle school principals and superintendents with criminal charges if they fail to report inappropriate student/teacher relationships to the state. TEA also requested an additional $400,000 from the legislature to hire more investigators.

Staff writer Julian Gill contributed to this report.

CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862.