AUSTIN (KXAN) — Parents are wondering how a teacher accused of sending inappropriate messages to a student 15 years ago still managed to get jobs at two other Central Texas school districts.
Christopher Cotten, a Round Rock Independent School District track coach accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student, faced similar allegations at Austin High School in 2000. Pflugerville ISD said Cotten took a job at Park Crest Middle School the same year he resigned from AISD.
“He was a great guy far as we could tell from class,” said Stephen Ford who took Cotten’s Algebra class his freshman year at Austin High School back in 2000. Ford doesn’t remember anything suspicious in class, but does remember when his teacher didn’t return. “Once Coach Cotten left, the school was giving us sub after sub.”
Stephen said rumors swirled, yet administrators never told students why Cotten left. Fifteen years later, Ford now knows why.
“I wasn’t surprised to hear it,” he said, “I was just really disappointed to hear it.”
Austin ISD said Cotten resigned in 2000 when the district became aware of inappropriate instant messaging between the teacher and an Austin High School student. But just months later, Cotten landed the job teaching in Pflugerville.
“It blows my mind because it would seem like a huge red flag if this guy resigns, or if he was forced to resign, or however it happened,” said Ford.
Pflugerville ISD told KXAN in a statement that it “received positive references for him and there was no mention of previous incidents in other school districts.”
“Personnel matters are a local decision,” said Lauren Callahan, a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency. “It’s up to the district that’s hiring, it’s up to the district where the employee’s left, if nobody reports to anybody else, it falls through the cracks.”
The TEA said it only gets notified about a teacher when they are arrested, or when a superintendent files a report about a teacher being fired or resigning for misconduct.
Austin ISD said it is currently working on getting more information about Cotten’s file and his time with the district, including whether they notified the TEA after his resignation. The agency opened an investigation into Cotten after he was arrested.