New Orleans police on Tuesday jailed a former Lakeview charter school teacher after he was accused of kissing an eighth-grade girl in his classroom on multiple occasions.
Matthew Nesser, 34, of Metairie, who until recently was a social studies teacher at Edward Hynes Charter School on Harrison Avenue, was also accused of buying the girl presents and giving her back rubs.
He was booked on one count of indecent behavior with a juvenile.
Nesser’s attorney, Joseph Raspanti, said his client denies all of the allegations.
The mother of a 14-year-old girl studying at Hynes told police April 16 that Nesser had been making out with her daughter on campus.
A day later, the girl underwent a forensic interview at the Children’s Advocacy Center. According to police, she said Nesser bought her books, jewelry, cards and chocolate for reasons like her birthday and Valentine’s Day.
She said Nesser had asked her to write things about herself in a journal he kept in the classroom and then, in January, told her he loved her. Because she believed he was on the verge of crying, she told him she loved him, too, she said.
The girl said she tried to tell Nesser they shouldn’t see each other. But, when she was alone helping him grade papers, he kissed her on the mouth, she said.
They kissed several more times alone in his classroom, with the sessions becoming longer and Nesser crying in front of her on occasion, the girl said. She said Nesser went so far as to pull her out of another class so they could kiss.
She recounted how he also gave her back rubs, including once under her clothes, according to court documents. She said he would talk about how they could be together when they were older unless she “betrayed his trust and told” her parents what was going on, court documents said.
Police obtained a warrant to arrest Nesser on April 24. He surrendered to investigators Tuesday, and Criminal District Court Magistrate Albert Thibodeaux set his bail at $12,500.
Two days after reporting Nesser to the police, the girl's mother obtained a court order barring him from contacting the teen or her younger sister. The order also barred him from going to the girls’ home or Hynes’ campus. It will remain in place at least until a hearing later this month.
The Advocate is not naming the mother to protect the identify of the girl.
The mother said she feared Nesser was grooming her daughter to sexually abuse her. She said she “recently learned” Nesser had “exhibited the same behavior toward another eighth-grader last year.”
Raspanti said he couldn’t comment on that claim, and it is not clear if that allegation was ever formally reported or investigated.
Hynes officials said they fired Nesser after he was reported to police. The school is cooperating with investigators, they said.
Hynes named Nesser its middle school teacher of the year in 2010.
The open-admissions charter school has about 580 students in pre-K through eighth grade. It holds an A performance grade from the state Department of Education.
In Louisiana, the crime of indecent behavior with a juvenile can carry up to seven years in prison but has no mandatory minimum punishment. First-time offenders can get their convictions expunged from their records once they serve their sentences.