CHARLOTTE — A teacher at South Mecklenburg High School has been arrested in connection with having a sexual encounter with a student, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
In court on Thursday, prosecutors said 26-year-old Gabriela Cartaya-Neufeld and an 18-year-old male student were caught in the act by the student’s mom at Park Road Park on Wednesday. The park is located in south Charlotte.
Prosecutors said the mother heard about the relationship over Thanksgiving and grew suspicious on Wednesday when her son was not at rugby practice. The mom noticed the missed practice because of the Life360 app, a family safety location app. Using that same app, the mom saw that her son was at Park Road Park, prosecutors said.
According to prosecutors, the mom drove to the park, where she reported seeing Cartaya-Neufeld and her son in a car having sex. She took photos of the car and license plate and then called police.
Police arrested Cartaya-Neufeld at the scene. According to court documents, Cartaya-Neufeld and the student allegedly had sex at least five times since October but fewer than 100 times. The encounters allegedly happened in places that include inside the student’s mother’s home, car, and Cartaya-Neufeld’s home.
Cartaya-Neufeld was charged with five counts of felony sexual activity with a student by a teacher. She was then taken to the Mecklenburg County jail but has since bonded out, according to police.
On the school’s website, Cartaya-Neufeld is listed as a science teacher for ninth through 12th-grade students. According to the prosecutor, there had been rumors on campus about Cartaya-Neufeld and her 18-year-old student for a long time. The prosecutor said at one point, administrators even questioned the student and the teacher about it.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said she started working for the school system in 2020.
The principal of South Mecklenburg High School released a statement regarding the incident, saying, “Although I cannot discuss personnel information, I wanted to inform you that we take this matter seriously. We share your concerns regarding this situation. The safety and security of our students and staff is of the utmost importance to us all, and while this is a troubling situation, it is being managed by law enforcement.”
Prosecutors said the student has threatened to run away and argued on Thursday that there are concerns about Cartaya-Neufeld being out of jail and running off with the student. The judge ordered electronic monitoring to be put on the teacher within 24 hours.
Under state law, a teacher cannot have sexual relations with a student, unless they are legally married to the student. Consent or being 18 is not a legal defense under the statute.
‘Watch your child’s behavior’
Ann Glaser is with Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center and helps young abuse victims.
She said about four out of 10 girls and two out of 10 boys will be abused or sexually assaulted at some level before they are 18 years old.
Glaser said parents and adults must watch for authority figures who abuse kids under their care.
“I would say you would want to watch your child’s behavior,” Glaser said. “You would also want to monitor how much time alone that adult figure has with a child.”
Glaser said it’s difficult for some victims to understand the true nature of the relationship with their abusers.
“We have many young adults, adolescents, teenagers who do believe they are in a mutually loving relationship, not recognizing that person has groomed them,” Glaser said.
Glaser said it’s important for parents to begin discussing these issues with their kids when they are young.
“It’s not great to start that at age 12, 14, 15,” she said “It’s going to be embarrassing for everyone, so you start real young and make it natural and acceptable to talk about those things.”
South Meck High School senior Ray Baxter doesn’t know the teacher personally but said everyone on campus was talking about her and the situation on Thursday.
“It’s crazy, man!” Baxter said.
“It’s just teaching us we got to look out who we hire for our teachers,” he added.
Police are asking anyone with more information to come forward.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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