School fires teacher accused in tryst with two students _lowres

Ashley Dowden

A 41-year-old high-school English teacher has been arrested after police say she had sex with one of her 16-year-old male students on the campus of the small religious Baton Rouge school where she worked.

“This is a complete shock to us,” said Preston Thompson, pastor at Redeemer Baptist Church, which is affiliated with Riverdale Christian Academy. “There was never any reason to suspect anything of this nature.”

The relationship came to light when the boy’s parents confronted him about explicit text messages on his phone on Aug. 12, according to the affidavit of probable cause. When the boy’s parents realized the messages were from Ashley Dowden, a teacher at his school, the boy admitted he had been in a relationship with her, the affidavit says.

The boy later told police that he had sex with her on the school’s campus and also traded nude photos and texts. Police say Dowden denied the allegations when they questioned her on Thursday until she was shown the nude photographs from the boy’s phone. At that point, police said, she admitted to the photos and to having sex with him.

Dowden joined Riverdale Christian Academy last August and was just over a week into her second year when she was arrested, Thompson said. She was well-regarded and had never had administrative issues, Thompson said.

She has since been placed on administrative leave.

He added that police told him the boy was not actually a student at the school.

“We have a policy in place that requires extensive background checks and screenings of all our employees, especially our teachers,” Thompson said.

Dowden has spent over 14 years teaching subjects such as English, creative writing, theater and art appreciation, according to her bio page on the school’s website that has since been taken down. She also worked as an education coordinator for Playmakers of Baton Rouge, a children’s theater.

She has been married for more than 10 years and has a daughter, according to the bio page.

Dowden, 314 Steele Blvd., Baton Rouge, was booked into Parish Prison on Friday on counts of computer-aided solicitation of a juvenile, indecent behavior with a juvenile and carnal knowledge of a juvenile.

Riverdale Christian Academy is a private school with about 175 students in grades from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The school was founded in 2001.