06:58 AM CST on Friday, January 23, 2009
By JENNIFER EMILY / The Dallas Morning News
At least two boys awaiting trial as adults say a Dallas Independent School District instructor repeatedly molested them at the Dallas County Jail while he was supposed to be teaching them.
Luis Enrique de los Santos is charged with one count of sexual assault of a child, and authorities said additional charges will probably follow. He is on administrative leave and has been released on $100,000 bail. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and it was unclear whether he has an attorney.
Authorities said a handful of boys made molestation accusations against de los Santos, 36, who was arrested last week. It was unclear how many.
Defense attorney Bill Wirskye said Wednesday that he represents two teenage boys who say de los Santos molested them. One is charged with capital murder, and the other is charged with aggravated assault of a police officer.
The boys are not being identified because The Dallas Morning News does not name possible victims of sex crimes.
The Dallas County Sheriff's Department contracted with DISD to provide instruction at the jail. De los Santos had been assigned there for about a year, officials said. But since 2004, he has taught at detention facilities and taught kids too sick to attend school, the district said.
The Sheriff's Department and the school district are investigating whether other children taught by de los Santos may have been molested.
The Sheriff's Department said de los Santos passed its background checks, but that point was of little solace to Wirskye.
"If you are going to certify kids" as adults, he said, "I think you have an obligation to protect them."
Door open, officials say
De los Santos is accused of taking boys into a bathroom at the jail and performing oral sex on them, authorities said.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Kim Leach said Wednesday that students were taught one or two at a time in a multipurpose room and that the door was left open. She said a jail guard checked on them periodically.
"We place the same trust on this teacher coming into the jail to tutor students just like any educator who teaches students in a normal classroom setting," Leach said. "We try not to interfere with students' learning while they're in this setting."
In the case in which he faces charges, it is believed de los Santos was teaching two students and took the victim out of the room to another area.
"If there were two in the room, he would just occupy the other one with something and would go out to an area where there was a bathroom right outside," Leach said.
Wirskye said that de los Santos had unfettered access to the children and that he used both rewards and threats to abuse them.
"He sometimes promised to give them things he shouldn't," like hamburgers he brought to the jail, Wirskye said.
Then, he told the boys, "if you don't do what I want, I'm going to tell the authorities, and it would really hurt your case."
Through Wirskye, the family of one of the boys he represents declined to comment. The other family could not be reached.
Wirskye said the boys need sexual abuse counseling, which they are not getting at the jail.
"They're both kids. They don't really know how to deal with it," Wirskye said. "They're in a bad situation to begin with, being certified as adults. And now, they've been abused."
In a 2006 Dallas Morning News story about educating juvenile inmates, a Texas Education Agency spokeswoman said that children in jail are entitled to continue their education and that it's the school district's responsibility to provide studies for them.
Leach said the Sheriff's Department is re-evaluating its policies on teacher-student supervision.
Wirskye, however, said the allegations show that the supervision and training by the school district and the Sheriff's Department is lacking. He said improvements are needed in those areas to better protect children held in adult jails.
"I'm just appalled," he said.
Staff writers Scott Goldstein and Tawnell Hobbs contributed to this report.