California ‘Teacher of the Year’ faces 15 charges for 'inappropriate relationship' with 13-year-old student


An elementary school teacher in National City, California, was arrested and charged for an “inappropriate relationship” with her 13-year-old former student, according to police.

Jacqueline Ma, 34, is accused of child sex abuse for sending lewd photographs and videos to a then-12-year-old boy when she was a sixth-grade teacher at Lincoln Acres Elementary.

Ma was first arrested on March 7 and then released on bail, according to police. She was rearrested on Thursday with additional felony charges and is currently being held without bail at Las Colinas Detention Facility.

The teacher faces up to 15 felony charges, including lewd acts with a child along with possession of child pornography.

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During a hearing on Monday, Deputy District Attorney Drew Hart called the defendant “obsessive, possessive, controlling and dangerous” while sharing details regarding photos and videos of the victim.

When she was arrested, she had a photograph of the victim in her wallet, she had jewelry with his initials, love letters were discovered in her classroom. In some of the messages, she expressed frustration at the child for not responding to the situation quicker. She expressed jealousy when the victim was talking to other girls.

According to prosecutors, Ma communicated with the student through a texting app, where she encouraged him to hide their messages. Ma would allegedly send illicit photographs of herself to the student and ask the victim to do the same. Prosecutors said that she would persistently tell him to “engage in sex acts” while he was at home.

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"The victim expressed at times, not willingness to go along with some of the activities or uncomfortableness with the activities, but that did not stop the defendant from continuing to message," they said.

Ma pleaded not guilty to all felony charges, including child pornography, sexual exploitation of a child and attempting to dissuade a witness from testifying.

Her attorney, Mario Vela, cited a clean criminal record and argued for her to be released on bail. However, Judge Carlos Varela deemed Ma a flight risk and held her on a no-bail status.

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Ma’s defense attorneys called for a bail review, which is scheduled for March 16.

Investigation into this case remains ongoing. If Ma is convicted of all 15 charges, she may face up to 29 years in state prison.

Ma was named one of five 2022-2023 Teachers of the Year in Cox’s annual showcase of educators.

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She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in education from the University of California, San Diego. She had been a teacher in the National School District since 2013.

In a profile about her award, Ma told Cox that she “considers the relationships she maintains with her students her greatest accomplishments,” according to NBC7.