Arp ISD, TEA officials discuss educator/student improper relationships

Arp ISD, TEA officials discuss educator/student improper relationships
Barbara Lynn Orpineda (Source: Smith County Jail.)
Barbara Lynn Orpineda (Source: Smith County Jail.)
As the superintendent for ARP ISD, Dwight Thomas says keeping students safe has always been his number one priority. After a district employee was arrested for an improper relationship with a student this month, Thomas is focused on student safety now more than ever.
"It's always scary to get these types of allegations, and we take them very seriously,” says Thomas. “Like any school district, there is zero tolerance for this."

Thomas says on October 11, two students came forward with allegations against Arp Elementary School counselor Barbara Orpineda.

"Our high school principal contacted me by phone and told me that he had a couple parents in his office with a student and they had some allegations about an improper interaction between a student and one of our employees," says Thomas.
Orpineda was arrested on Wednesday with two charges of an improper relationship between an educator and a student and two charges of sexual assault of a child. Orpineda is also under review by the Texas Education Agency.
The TEA has the authority to investigate and sanction an educators certificate in these types of situations, if needed.
Over the past five years, the TEA reports that the statewide numbers for cases involving educators engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a student has increased each year.
In the 2011-2012 school year, there was 156 cases and in the 2015-2016 year there was 222.
The TEA says that most of these cases have a common thread.
"The majority of our cases have some sort of beginning in social or electronic media,” says Lauren Callahan, a TEA information specialist. “We really ask parents to be aware of what their children are doing on their devices."

Orpineda is out of jail on bond. Arp ISD confirmed that she is on administrative leave pending the findings of the court system. 

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