California ‘Teacher of the Year’ faces 14 charges in child sexual abuse case

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LA Times | Contributed

A teacher in National City who won a Teacher of the Year award in August was arrested and booked into county jail for an “inappropriate relationship” with a 13-year-old former student, police said. Jacqueline Ma, 34, was a teacher at Lincoln Acres Elementary in National City — just south of San Diego — where she taught fifth and sixth grades.

On Monday, a “concerned parent” reached out to the National City Police Department saying she was afraid her 13-year-old was being treated inappropriately by Ma, according to a news release. The next day, detectives developed probable cause to arrest the teacher.

She was booked into jail on “numerous felony charges” and was released on bail, according to police. Detectives continued to investigate and rearrested Ma on Thursday, charging her with additional felonies in the case. She is now being held without bail at Las Colinas Detention Facility. Police did not release details on the suspected criminal activity because the alleged victim is a minor.

The teacher is charged with seven counts of possession of child pornography and four counts of sexual exploitation of a child. She is also charged with two counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts with a child. Finally, Ma is charged with attempting to dissuade a witness from testifying.

National School District Supt. Leighangela Brady said at a school board meeting Wednesday that the community was trying to process the “unthinkable situation.” Ma had been a teacher in the district since 2013 and had a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s in education, both from UC San Diego, according to her Teacher of the Year profile in the San Diego Union Tribune.

The award was announced last year by the San Diego County Office of Education. Her colleagues at the time said she was instrumental in helping Lincoln Acres Elementary adjust to using technology for teaching during the pandemic. “I could not have survived without her when it came to virtual learning,” teacher Cynthia Valle-Lone said at the time. The educator is now being held at a women’s detention facility without bail.

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