Jose Daniel Estrada, a sixth grade math teacher at Mary Ellen Henderson middle school, pleaded guilty to two counts of felony aggravated sexual battery at his plea hearing at the Arlington County Circuit Courts on Wednesday, May 24. His sentencing hearing is set for August 4.
Estrada was originally arrested on Feb. 17 and charged with the two felonies following a student’s report on Jan. 17. According to police, the victims were two females.
Falls Church City Public Schools released the following statement in response to Estrada’s guilty plea:
“As a result of this week’s court action, Falls Church City Public Schools has moved forward with the cancellation of Mr. Estrada’s pay that, by law, has been held in escrow since his arrest. We are filing a petition with the State Board of Education requesting Mr. Estrada’s teaching license be revoked, to eliminate the possibility of his return to the classroom in another school division.
“FCCPS takes very seriously the accusations of child abuse and neglect. As Mandated Reporters, we remain committed to the immediate notification of authorities from the first suspicion of abuse or neglect.
“Our Division remains committed to supporting the students and families involved, as well as all of our students and staff members.”
FCCPS Director of Communications John Brett provided additional information about the efficacy of the school system’s hiring process:
“As a result of this incident, our Human Resources department has performed a deep dive into our hiring processes. As we have stated before, there was never an indication during the hiring process that Mr. Estrada had been the subject of any complaints at his previous employers. He passed background checks with law enforcement, Child Protective Services, and other agencies including the FBI. As mentioned in our statement, we are filing a petition with the VBOE to request his teaching license be revoked which will prevent him from teaching in another school Division.”
This guilty plea marks the first legal consequence Estrada has faced for a seemingly past. At Estrada’s Feb. 24 arraignment hearing, the prosecution claimed Estrada was counseled at several schools, including Henderson Middle School, where “administrators talked to him about his behavior and under no circumstances should you [Estrada] be alone with a female student,” as verified by a court transcript of thehearing.
In late February, Manassas Park Police announced they were conducting a joint investigation along with Child Protective Services on allegations that may have occurred between September 2014 to April 2015 while Estrada was employed at Manassas Park middle school.
Estrada, 36, has been listed as a teacher at Henderson middle school since July 2015. Estrada’s immediate supervisor at Manassas Park middle school was interviewed prior to his hiring with FCCPS. An earlier statement from FCCPS this year noted that “[The] supervisor was asked specifically about Estrada’s interactions with students and staff members. FCCPS received no information indicating that there had been problems or issues, and when asked if Estrada was someone who would be rehired, the answer was yes.”
Prior to Estrada’s arrest, FCCPS interim superintendent Dr. Robert Schiller told the News-Press that the School Board determined that “he was not the kind of person who rose to the level of our expectations.” That aligned with the School Board’s decision to not renew Estrada’s contract just before his arrest, which was a one time annual non-continuing contract.
Estrada also worked stints in Manassas City and Fairfax County Public Schools. According to WUSA9, in each school district, “his contract was not renewed” in light of “allegations of bad behavior.” He has yet to be charged in other legal jurisdictions.
On Wednesday, May 31, Falls Church Police Chief Mary Gavin released the following statement on Estrada’s plea:
“This came together because of a courageous young student,” said Gavin. “She did exactly what she should have done – she fled and told adults right away. She is a remarkable person, and I admire her tenacity and bravery, as well the second student who also came forward. I also appreciate the adults who said to these children, ‘I believe you’ and ‘It’s not your fault’ then reported to the authorities.”
Commonwealth Attorney Theo Stamos said “We’re grateful this case has been resolved with a guilty plea thus sparing our young victims the trauma of having to testify in court. These types of crimes deeply unsettle a community. Holding offenders responsible while shielding victims from the rigors of a trial are twin goals of this office.”