Round Rock, Texas (KXAN) - A debate assistant who worked at Stony Point High School was arrested Wednesday, charged with sexual assault of a child and two counts of possession of child pornography after he was accused of having inappropriate relationships with students.
The Round Rock Independent School District says the temporary employee, who has been identified by police as 22-year-old Tyrell Lee VanWinkle, was not a certified teacher, but he did work as an assistant with Speech, Drama and Debate programs periodically after school hours. VanWinkle started working with the district in February of 2016; he passed a background check from the Texas Department of Public Safety, as is the procedure for all employees in the district.
“Obviously we still take it very seriously, but I do think it’s important to know this wasn’t a certified teacher who works with students across the board,” explained spokesperson Corey Ryan with Round Rock ISD.
He was removed from the school after the district was notified of suspicious conduct. The district says VanWinkle was fired on May 2 after an internal investigation.
Authorities opened the case in November after a 16-year-old Stony Point student filed a report against VanWinkle claiming he made sexual comments to her and sent her “sexually explicit photographs.” An arrest affidavit lists VanWinkle’s title as an assistant debate club coach at the school.
While investigating the accusations, investigators learned two 17-year-old girls on the debate team had relationships with the suspect. Both students said they became friends with VanWinkle in 2016 and proceeded to exchange explicit text messages with him.
One of the students said her friendship with the suspect turned into a sexual relationship, but she told police she didn’t have sex with him until she was 17 years old. After reviewing time stamps of various images and text messages, police determined the two were having sex when she was 16. According to court documents, the victim and VanWinkle would have sex when they got back from debate matches late at night.
VanWinkle turned himself into the Williamson County Jail on Wednesday.
Round Rock ISD encourages anyone with information on possible wrongdoing or inappropriate behavior to immediately report it. One way you can make those report anonymously is through the Round Rock ISD Anonymous Alerts program which has been in existence for over two years.
The Round Rock ISD community can also report incidents through Lighthouse Services 1-800-398-1496 (English) and 1-800-216-1288 (Spanish).