Award-Winning National City Teacher Arrested on Suspicion of Child Sex Abuse

The investigation stemmed from concerns of a mother who reported to National City police that her 13-year-old child may have an inappropriate relationship with a former teacher

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An award-winning elementary school teacher in San Diego's South Bay was arrested Tuesday on child sex abuse charges, according to the National City School District.

Jacqueline Ma, a 6th-grade teacher at Lincoln Acres Elementary School, faces three counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14, and three counts of oral copulation with a child under 14, according to San Diego County Sheriff's Department records.

Ma, 34, was booked at the Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility, according to the sheriff's department.

District Superintendent Leighangela Brady sent NBC 7 a statement Tuesday evening confirming Ma was arrested on campus at around 8 a.m., away from students. The district is only aware of one alleged victim and they are no longer a student in the district, according to Brady.

Investigators have not detailed when the alleged abuse occurred. The National City Police Department launched the investigation after a parent reported Monday concerns her 13-year-old child possibly had an inappropriate relationship with a former teacher.

"We know that our entire school community is as stunned as we were by this news. The district will cooperate with law enforcement and cannot comment any further on the pending investigation. We will continue to do everything possible to keep our students’ safety, needs, and education first and foremost," Brady's statement read, in part.

In a letter to parents, Brady said the district was working on hiring a substitute teacher to replace Ma, and asked anyone with information on the case to contact NCPD Sgt. Roberto Gonzalez at 619-336-4457.

Ma was named one of five 2022-2023 Teachers of the Year in an annual showcase of educators by Cox. In a profile about Ma announcing her award, Ma told Cox she "considers the relationships she maintains with her students her greatest accomplishments."

Lincoln Acres parents told NBC 7 they had always thought Ma had a great connection with her students, but looking back after her arrest for alleged sex crimes, some said they think may have been able to detect something had they looked a little closer.

"She was very down to earth. She kind of seemed like a kid herself," said Katy Carranza, parent to a 1st-grader at Lincoln Acres.

Aileen Carillo's younger brother was a former student of Ma's, and she was a little more skeptical.

"She went over the top. She would go to my brother's games in Tijuana every weekend. She went to one of his birthday parties, everything," Carillo said. "Honestly, I used to tell my mom, 'Why is she always texting my brother?' And she had contact, too, but the way she was always checking in with my brother, I thought it was nice at first, like she really cares, but I've had a lot of impactful teachers that didn't have to be that close."

NCPD Lt. Omar Ramirez said the department would not comment on the details of the case because they are actively investigating.

On Wednesday at a school district council meeting, a frustrated parent spoke up asking the board if they were going to address the issue.

"I'm mad because I figure they would at least acknowledge what was going on with our children at our school. Our kids didn't want to go to school today," said Patricia Martinez, a Lincoln Acres parent.

NBC 7 spoke with superintendent Dr. Leighangela Brady and said she couldn't address the investigation but did say counselors and faculty were on campus early to answer questions.

Ma is expected in court on March 14.

This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

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