A Texas teacher accused of carrying on a “controlling” sexual relationship with an 18-year-old student at a Christian prep school appeared in court this week.
Lacey Jo Cunningham, 32, a basketball coach and anatomy teacher at The Woodlands Christian Academy, was arrested last month for allegedly having sexual contact with an unidentified female student, which stretched back to late last summer, according to court documents obtained by Oxygen.com. She was charged with having an improper relationship with a student.
Police say Cunningham had been engaged in a sexual relationship with the unidentified student since Aug. 16, a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com stated. The student, who told her mother of the illicit relationship, said she began texting the teacher earlier that month.
Their relationship rapidly progressed, she told investigators, from rides to church to creepy slumber parties at the woman’s home, where the anatomy teacher allegedly kissed “her all over her body” and placed “her fingers inside [the victim’s] vaginal area,” the criminal complaint stated. The teen said she was usually clothed, except on one occasion where she took her shirt off. Sometimes, she said, Cunningham would give her vodka and Snapple iced tea.
In total, police said Cunningham made approximately 20 sexual advances on the student. The student, who said she felt trapped in the relationship, described the 32-year-old educator as “manipulative.”
“[Cunningham] would always get mad at her, then apologize later,” authorities alleged in the complaint.
During an interview with forensic investigators, the teen said Cunningham would regularly call her at least 10 times a day and forbid her from ever speaking to anyone of their relationship. She allegedly persuaded the young woman to lie to her parents about her whereabouts and threatened to kill herself if she said anything.
The student said Cunningham would regularly inundate her phone with puzzling, sometimes racy text messages. One minute, Cunningham would send Bible verses to her phone, she said, and the next moment would the teacher would tell the young woman, “I want you.”
“You’re beautiful and you look so good in those leggings and I just don’t think you understand how perfect you are,” Cunningham allegedly said in a text message to the 18-year-old that police uncovered.
When the student told the teacher she wanted to see other people, things got icy. Cunningham’s behavior became increasingly domineering, authorities said, and the educator allegedly tried to isolate her from her friends and forbid her from dating anyone else.
“[She] said she liked a boy that she went to school with and wanted to date him, but [Cunningham] told her she could not because [she] was ‘hers,’” the criminal complaint stated. “[Cunningham] told her if she did date someone else, she would not talk to her anymore and that she would ignore her at school.”
After the student stopped responding to Cunningham, the teacher again suggested she’d commit suicide, police said. The student said that by the time their relationship fell apart she was terrified of Cunningham.
Cunningham allegedly admitted to police that the 18-year-old student frequently slept over and even had a key to her apartment, but said that despite sharing a bed, she had never inappropriately touched her. She denied having any feelings towards the teen or ever having a sexual relationship with another woman. Cunningham also insisted that the student had initiated the sleepovers, according to the criminal complaint.
Police seized two of her laptops, a tablet, iPhone, and an Apple Watch. She was taken into custody on Dec. 19.
The Woodlands Christian Academy, which is located just north of Houston, has since fired Cunningham.
“Our students’ safety is our top priority, and this is a deeply troubling situation,” the prep school said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com. “We are committed to supporting our students and community during this time. The teacher was terminated, and we will continue to assist law enforcement with their investigation.”
The woman’s lawyer, Stephen D. Jackson, however, described his client as a “wonderful young lady” and denied the charges she’s facing.
“She is very shaken up,” Jackson told Oxygen.com. “We are currently investigating why the student would make these allegations.”
Jackson said he hopes to review the evidence Montgomery County prosecutors have against Cunningham in the coming days.
“We are just asking that the teachers, students and parents understand that this is a very trying time for Lacey Jo and we thank those that have reached out with support.”
Cunningham was released after posting a $50,000 bond, her legal team said. She appeared in court on Wednesday, according to online court records. Her next court date is scheduled for Feb. 5 at 9 a.m.
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