A former Rio Vista ISD teacher was arrested early Friday morning after a three-month investigation. He was charged with attempting to engage in an improper relationship with a student, Rio Vista Police Chief Perry Curry said Tuesday.
Kevin Duane Pongratz, 29, of Burleson turned himself in at the Johnson County Law Enforcement Center about 3 a.m. Friday. Police attempted to arrest him earlier in the day at his home but he wasn’t there, Perry said. Johnson County Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Ronny McBroom set bail for Pongratz at $25,000, and jail activity records provided by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office show that Pongratz posted bail and was released that same day.
Curry said that attempted improper relationship between an educator and a student is a third-degree felony. He said it is a relatively new charge intended for use in cases such as this in which there was no sexual contact but “things happened that shouldn’t have happened.”
Allegations against Pongratz involve a 14-year-old female student, Curry said.
Rio Vista ISD Superintendent Tim Wright said Tuesday afternoon when the allegations first surfaced, he put Pongratz on administrative leave, but that after police were notified, Pongratz resigned voluntarily.
“When this situation was reported to me, I reported it to the police chief, and to the State Board of Education [for] certification review” as required, Wright said. “We [school officials] did what we had to do to keep our kids safe.”
Wright said that Pongratz’s teaching certificate is under review by the State Board of Education now. If the allegations are proved false, Wright said, the board could reissue that certificate. But if he is found guilty, the board will revoke Pongratz’s teaching certificate “and he will never teach again.”
RVISD board meeting minutes indicate that Pongratz was hired in July 2012 and the school district’s website lists Pongratz as a teacher and a coach.
Curry said the investigation began in late November after a friend of the alleged victim “made an outcry” to a teacher. The teacher went to the principal, and the principal went to Wright. Wright contacted Rio Vista police, Curry said.
Curry said that when first confronted by school and police officials, Pongratz denied the allegations. Curry and another officer also interviewed the alleged victim and her friend who made the initial statement to the other teacher.
Curry said that the alleged victim was reluctant to speak to police, but that she later confessed that “certain things did happen” in an interview with representatives of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Johnson County. The police chief also said that video surfaced during the investigation that corroborated the witness’s statements.
Evidence against Pongratz was given to Johnson County District Attorney Dale Hanna. After receiving an arrest warrant for the suspect, Curry said RV police officers attempted to arrest Pongratz at his home, but he was not there. Curry said that Pongratz then called RV police and made arrangements to turn himself in at the jail on Friday.
Curry said attempted improper relationship between an educator and a student is “a pretty broad charge, and we had a lot of bases to cover in our investigation. In fact, the investigation is still ongoing, but I feel confident we have enough evidence to keep him from ever teaching again. All we are really waiting on now is a trial.”
Johnson County Assistant District Attorney Brent Huffman said Tuesday he expects the case against Pongratz to go before the grand jury in March.
“We’ll review all the facts of the case before it goes to the grand jury to make sure that we have the appropriate charges against [Pongratz]. But for now, [attempted improper relationship between and educator and a student] is the only thing he is charged with,” Huffman said.
RVISD officials have not returned a request for comment.