Former Levelland ISD teacher and coach Scot Justin Hays, 41, was arrested Thursday in Lubbock. On Wednesday, a grand jury in Hockley County indicted Hays for indecency with a child and online solicitation of a minor.
The indictments accused Hays of touching the genitals of “a child younger than 17 years of age” in April and touching her breast in May.
Hays was also accused of soliciting sexual contact from a minor by text message in May.
A Levelland Police incident report from May 19 obtained by EverythingLubbock.com identified Hays as a softball coach for Levelland ISD. The report cited an incident Hays had with a student that, “ultimately led to his resignation due to inappropriate behavior per the Levelland Independent School District.”
Levelland Police previously said, “On Tuesday, May 17, 2016, Levelland ISD was made aware of an allegation of possible inappropriate electronic communication between one of its teacher/coaches and a Levelland ISD student.”
“On Wednesday, May 18, 2016, the employee resigned his employment with the District,” Levelland PD also said. “The District will continue to cooperate with law enforcement and educator licensing agencies.”
A search of the State Board of Education website showed Hays still had a valid teaching certificate but it included a special note which said, “This individual is currently under review by the SBEC Professional Discipline Unit.”
Levelland ISD also sent out a release on May 26 explaining that on May 17 they became aware that Hays may have had inappropriate electronic communications with a student.
“We were approached by a set of parents and told about these allegations, we did an in-house investigation on May 17, we put the employee on paid administrative leave,” explained Jeff Northern, Superintendent for Levelland ISD. Northern added that it takes a large amount of evidence to place an employee on paid administrative leave and then to pass the incident on to law enforcement.
Northern said that Hays resigned immediately after being placed on leave.
“We handed over everything we had, we cooperated fully with both agencies and they kind of took it from there,” Northern explained of the investigation. Northern said that law enforcement and the state education board took over the investigation after that point.
Northern was aware that the online solicitation charge was a possibility for Hays, but was surprised to hear about the child indecency charge.
“We were not aware of that, matter of fact I didn’t even know that that [allegations of child indecency] were being investigated until I read the article today about the indictment,” Northern said Thursday.
Northern said he talks to his staff constantly about using electronic communication responsibly and professionally. But he worries that the prevalence of social media and new technology makes it easier for inappropriate communication to arise.
“Well I think it’s a tragic situation here and it seems to be one that’s occurring more frequently across the state and across the nation,”Northern said. “And we take the safety of all of our students very, very seriously and once we come across something like this and are made aware of this, we’re going to investigate it. We’re going to take proper action, we’re going to do exactly what we need to do as a district to protect our students.”
The recommended bonds for Hays’ two indictments together added up to $15,000. He was booked into the Lubbock County Detention Center a few minutes after noon.
Hay’s attorney, Frank Sellers, released the following statement late Thursday:
Justin and his family are devastated and embarrassed by his arrest today. At this point, the charges against Justin are significantly inconsistent with the initial reports we received at the time Justin resigned his coaching position. We are still gathering all of the information we can. But we believe Justin is absolutely innocent of the charges against him, and we look forward to clearing his name in the courtroom very soon.