UPDATE: Jacob De La Paz has been arrested by the Department of Homeland Security. Click here for more.
LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — A teacher at St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette is no longer employed, according to a message to parents sent by the school administration.
KLFY has obtained a copy of the message, signed by Chancellor the Rev. Michael J. Russo which notified parents that Jacob De La Paz “is no longer employed by or associated with STM in any capacity” as of Wednesday. The message did not specify if De La Paz was fired or resigned.
The message also said that the school has “no reports, evidence or reason to believe that Mr. De La Paz engaged in any type of inappropriate behavior or misconduct with any students and STM.”
Records obtained by KLFY show that De La Paz was previously employed at a school in Cabot, Arkansas where he was found to have “engaged in inappropriate communication with a student via text messaging” in 2017.
After a 2-year investigation and hearing by the Arkansas State Board of Education, De La Paz was placed on probation. Records show the Arkansas board’s ethics subcommittee recommended his teaching license be permanently revoked, but the full board chose to impose a 3-year probation on his license and fine De La Paz $250.
While his case was being investigated in Arkansas, the teacher took a teaching position at North Vermilion High School. De La Paz’s attorney told the Arkansas State Board of Education during a 2019 hearing that the teacher was forthcoming with the North Vermilion High School principal about the proceeding happening in Arkansas at the time.
“STM was made aware, up-front by Mr. De La Paz, of an isolated and imprudent infraction in his past,” the statement from STM read. “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.”
Vermilion Parish Superintendent Tommy Byler released a statement Thursday, which said De La Paz applied for a math position with the Vermilion Parish School System in August 2017. Byler said De La Paz revealed that his Arkansas teaching certificate was under review for an allegation of texting a student.
“In conversations with the Arkansas Board of Education, we were told that a hearing would be held but that in the meantime his license and his eligibility for employment until the time of his Board of Education hearing had no restrictions,” Byler said. “He was eligible for employment in Arkansas at the time. In addition, the laws that govern Louisiana certification also declared him eligible for employment.”
Byler said De La Paz was hired on a temporary 1-year only basis, based on the Arkansas DOE clearance and Louisiana Dept. of Education approval.
“All of these certifications were verified by the Vermilion Parish School System personnel department,” he said. “He also had to undergo a criminal background check that came back with no criminal charges.
Upon completion of his Arkansas hearing, in which no disqualifying or criminal charges were found, he applied for and received his Louisiana Department of Education certificate in September of 2019 upon approval and clearance from the Arkansas and Louisiana Departments of Education.”
Byler said De La Paz was employed in Vermilion until June 2022.
“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,” the STM statement read. “He was also safe environment trained.”