Associated Press & KHOU.com staff
Posted on April 12, 2012 at 6:15 PM
NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas -- A Christian school in Houston has been sued after some fourth-graders became pen pals with a jailed man later convicted of child abuse.
Officials with Trinity Lutheran Church and School say teacher Laura Perry put together the voluntary project and is a family friend of 55-year-old Rickey Rowlett.
Jurors in New Braunfels on March 22 sentenced Rowlett to 50 years in prison after his conviction for sexual abuse of a girl. Investigators discovered the letters following the conviction.
Perry, who allegedly told students Rowlett was falsely accused, is no longer with the school.
The lawsuit says the church pastor and school principal OK'd the pen pal project.
School administrators said Wednesday that the project was unacceptable and security has been updated.
"No one has been physically harmed. That is one thing that people need to keep in mind," said John Menke with Trinity Lutheran Church. "No one has been hurt. A lot of people are understandably upset."
Some parents have filed a negligence lawsuit saying they have been emotionally and financially harmed. The suit accuses the school of providing Rowlett with a "gold mine of information" about their children. That information included the children's addresses and hobbies.
"I care about my son and what I'm having to do to make sure he's protected," said one of the mother's involved in the lawsuit. She didn't want her name used because she's scared. She has taken her child out of the school.
Perry's father delivered the children's letters to Rowlett when he was in jail, according to the lawsuit.
The suit also alleges Perry's former fiance, Blake Perry, was indicted on child porn charges, but was allowed to have contact with students and coach children's sports at Trinity.
"I think she manipulated everyone. She manipulated the children. She manipulated the parents," the mother said. "She could have been honest and up front and asked for permission on any of these things, and she didn't"
Perry couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. The principal has been put on paid leave.