A Lafayette Parish School System employee has been arrested after accusations she had sex with a foreign exchange student living with her, the Youngsville Police Department said Thursday.
Kimberly Wellman-Rich, 36, was arrested Thursday morning on counts of felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile, indecent behavior with a juvenile, encouraging or contributing to the delinquency of a child and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile. Her husband, Jeffery Rich, is accused of knowing about the abuse and was booked on counts of accessory after the fact to felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, a department statement said.
Youngsville Police Chief Rickey Boudreaux said Wellman-Rich’s bond is set at $72,500 and Rich’s bond is currently set at $10,000.
Boudreaux said an investigation into the couple began after the agency was forwarded a complaint from a Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services intake office on Jan. 22. An anonymous caller alleged to DCFS staff that Wellman-Rich was having a sexual relationship with a foreign exchange student in her care.
Through interviews with witnesses and evidence collection, investigators determined Wellman-Rich abused the student beginning when he was 15, until he was removed from her household on Jan. 26 by the Lafayette Parish School System and his foreign exchange host program, Boudreaux said. It was not specified by law enforcement how long the inappropriate relationship lasted.
The legal age of consent in Louisiana is 17.
Investigators also determined the couple supplied the teen with marijuana, and allowed him to smoke and drink alcohol in their home.
LPSS issued a statement Thursday morning confirming that school officials are aware of the allegations of inappropriate behavior. The school system is cooperating with law enforcement, according to the statement.
School officials would not further comment on the matter.
According to the school board’s policy manual, sponsoring exchange agencies must be in good standing with the Council for Standards on International Educational Travel and be a United States Information Agency designated organization, with a local representative within 50 miles of Lafayette Parish.
Some basic expectations are outlined for the sponsoring agency and host family around academic involvement, and the school system “expects exchange organizations and host families to provide proper and responsible supervision of international exchange students.”
The policy states only 25 exchange students will be accepted into the district each year, since each student attends tuition free at the expense of LPSS and state taxpayers.
Additional details about the logistics of the exchange program were not available from LPSS before press time Thursday.
Hearts of Hope Center for Sexual Trauma issued a warning Thursday about how to spot grooming behaviors in child sexual abuse cases, in light of several recent child sex crimes in Acadiana. Grooming behavior often includes isolating the victim, gaining the victim’s and community’s trust to remain undetected, and becoming physically affectionate or being otherwise hands-on with the victim, the center said.
“It is important for parents, caregivers, and community members to understand the grooming process. It is every adult’s responsibility to keep kids safe,” center leaders wrote.