A Glendale teacher was arrested earlier this week after authorities accused her of having sex with a 14-year-old student in May during a school field trip to Washington D.C.
Jacqueline Nicole Muller, 26, was taken into custody by the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia on suspicion of first-degree child sexual abuse. The Los Angeles resident taught at Salem Lutheran School, a church and private school in Glendale for students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
She had been with the school for only a year before the alleged incident.
According to a complaint filed last month in Washington Superior Court, Muller began having unprotected sex with one of her eighth-grade students during a school trip to Washington D.C. and Virginia in early May. Muller was a chaperone on the trip.
The two reportedly had sex for the first time on May 9 in a Washington hotel room the 14-year-old shared with another boy. The complaint said the two had sex again later that day when the school group moved to a different hotel in Virginia.
Authorities said other chaperones on the trip became suspicious about the amount of time the teacher was spending with the student and informed the boy’s parents.
When they confronted him after he returned from the trip, the 14-year-old reportedly said the two were just talking and reading a report.
The parents then obtained their child’s cellphone and discovered texts Muller reportedly sent, with messages such as, “Hope you slept well my love” and “Missing you,” according to the complaint.
The 14-year-old soon admitted to the sexual contact, according to court documents, and said the relationship first started in March with an exchange of messages on Instagram, where they talked about mutual interests. They kissed the following month after the initial exchange.
“He remembered the date specifically because it was the [student’s] first kiss,” the complaint states.
Although the Instagram messages could not be recovered, authorities said they found numerous texts and emails sent between Muller and the student spanning several months.
On May 14, when school officials became aware of what happened, they immediately informed authorities, and Muller subsequently resigned, according to a statement from Ali Smyser, president of Salem Lutheran Church.
“Salem Lutheran Church and School takes the safety of our students very seriously and will always do everything in our power to protect them,” Smyser said.
However, according to court documents, Muller initially denied the allegations when she was confronted.
Authorities obtained an email she reportedly sent to the school the following day on May 15 where she apologized for what had happened and asked if it was possible to return to teach. In the email, she said she had been “wrestling with the thoughts of the last week” in her head but that the students at Salem “deserve some normalcy for the remainder of the year,” Muller wrote
“I completely understand that my actions are grounds for dismissal, but I wish this could happen after school ends,” she added.
She partially attributed her actions to personal issues, including her mother being diagnosed with cancer and problems with her boyfriend. This led her to seek comfort in the 14-year-old, but that she “let it get carried away.”
However, the day before she sent the email, authorities said Muller was contacting the student in secret.
According to court documents one of the messages she sent read, “Please don’t tell anyone anything about me or the situation, OK?” Other messages included talk of marriage, sending love letters and their previous physical contact.
A family member of the 14-year-old eventually became aware of the messages and took control of the boy’s email account, impersonating him.
During an exchange on May 25, Muller emailed the family member posing as the boy and asked that all their previous correspondences be thrown away and the email account that was being used be deleted.