The graduation enhancement technician at Lincoln Middle School, also a junior varsity basketball coach at Palmetto High School, has been arrested on child abuse charges that include impregnating a student he met at Lincoln.
Lamont Houston, 31, was arrested Thursday and charged with sexual battery of a child between ages 12 and 18, lewd and lascivious molestation of a child between the ages 12 and 16, and child abuse for someone 21 years or older impregnating a child under the age of 16.
Houston bowed his head and was fidgeting when he appeared Friday afternoon before Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas via video conference.
Nicholas did not find there was probable cause to charge Houston with sexual battery, but did find probable cause for the lesser included offense of lewd and lascivious molestation. He set Houston’s bonds at a total of $55,000 and ordered him into the supervised release program with one of the conditions being that he have no contact with the child.
Aggravating factors given in the arrest report were taken into account, Nicholas said, leading him to set bonds higher than the standard bond for lewd and lascivious molestation.
The first is that the alleged victim was in middle school, Nicholas said.
“Secondly, and perhaps more important, is that you were a school board employee who worked at the school she attended,” Nicholas said. “You took advantage of the opportunity.”
Defense attorney Colleen Glenn argued there was insufficient probable cause given that the report referred to the girl as a student at the middle school but did not specify her age. Nicholas ordered the State Attorney’s Office to file supplemental paperwork stating the girl’s age and that if Houston does not post bond before Monday, that he be returned to court.
Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler said the girl is 14.
Multiple members of Houston’s family were in court Friday afternoon and stood quietly as Glenn addressed the court. Houston has always lived in Manatee County, and lettered in basketball during his fours years as a student at Southeast High School, Glenn said.
The girl revealed to her mother that she had had sex with Houston after she realized she was pregnant, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Tyler said his department was notified Thursday morning after the school learned of the situation.
Houston began a “casual relationship” with the girl in May, while she was in eighth grade at Lincoln, and the two began exchanging text messages, according to the report.
In June, Houston picked the girl up one day without the girl’s parents’ permission or knowledge. Houston and the girl had sex in his car during the encounter, police reported.
Several weeks later, Houston picked up the girl, and the two drove around before he pulled into a secluded parking lot and they again had sex in his car, according to the report.
The school district was notified of the arrest on Thursday, general counsel Mitchell Teitelbaum said in a statement.
“The employee was immediately removed from the school and any contact with students,” Teitelbaum said. “On Friday, Mr. Houston resigned and agreed not to seek any reemployment with the district.”
Although Houston resigned, Teitelbaum said the district will be seeking termination proceedings against Houston.
This is Lincoln Middle School Principal Eddie Hundley calling to make sure you have accurate information about a serious matter involving our school. The Palmetto Police Department arrested a member of our staff today. The staff member has been reassigned and will not have contact with any students in the school district until law enforcement and the school district have completed investigations into this matter. We will keep you updated as warranted. Thank you. Robo call from Lincoln Middle School Principal Eddie Hundley to parents on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016
Lincoln parents were informed of the arrest Thursday night through a call home from Principal Eddie Hundley, telling parents he wanted to provide them “accurate information about a serious matter involving our school.” The robo call did not name the staff member or the charges he was facing. The recorded message told parents the school would keep them updated.
Houston was hired at Lincoln in September 2014 as a teacher’s assistant, according to the district. The district’s salary database for that year states Houston earned $20,535. He became a graduation enhancement technician the following year, a move that increased his salary to $38,012, according to the district database.
The graduation enhancement technician position in the school district was created for the start of the 2015-16 academic year, as part of the district’s involvement with the campaign for grade-level reading. The technicians, called GETs, are charged with helping to identify and solve chronic absenteeism.
The GETS are “responsible for resolving problems that interfere with student progress and achievement including excessive absenteeism, lack of health/personal care, homelessness, and limited parent engagement,” states the school district’s description for the job.