A former El Centro teacher pleaded not guilty Tuesday to criminal charges that allege she gave her students marijuana and alcohol on a weekend camping trip involving about 20 students in February 2019.
At the time, 50-year-old Monique Garcia was a teacher at Southwest High School in El Centro. She was tasked with supervising a trip for the school's Outdoor Adventure Club in the Laguna Mountains.
Garcia was shaking during her arraignment Tuesday where she was charged with employment of a minor to sell or carry cannabis, furnishing cannabis to a minor over 14, sale of alcoholic beverage to a minor, cruelty to a child by endangering their health, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
The first two charges are felonies and the rest are misdemeanors. She faces eight years and four months in state prison if convicted of all charges.
Prosecutors say Garcia supplied the alcohol and marijuana on the trip. When the group ran out of alcohol and marijuana, she had a 17-year-old student drive her to a dispensary and liquor store to get more.
“This is an example of how you should not teach how you should not educate, how you do not take care of children,” said Deputy District Attorney Steven Marquardt.
Marquardt said some of the children also got sick from the alcohol and marijuana.
She made bond for $100,000 and the court ordered her not to have contact with any of the students on the trip. Her next court appearance is scheduled for May 11.
Central Union High School District officials issued a statement in
which they said Garcia was no longer employed with the district.
The case is the first prosecuted following the inception of the District Attorney's Student Safety in School Systems Task Force, which reviews reports of physical, sexual and other types of abuse toward students.
The task force, established last November, investigates and evaluates claims of student abuse submitted to the District Attorney's Office by members of the public.