Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008

Teacher arrested for selling drugs

Wootton English instructor allegedly sold cocaine to students

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A former Thomas S. Wootton High School teacher was arrested Monday for allegedly distributing cocaine to two of her students, police report.

Theresa Cunningham Duarte, 44, of Rockville was charged with two counts of distribution of a controlled dangerous substance and two counts of contributing to conditions of a child.

Detectives with the county police's Family Crimes Division were contacted by Child Protective Services and told that Duarte had distributed cocaine to Wootton students from her home on the 1000 block of Brice Road, said Lucille Baur, a Montgomery County Police spokeswoman.

Duarte was hired as a full-time English teacher at the school in July 2004 after serving as a substitute teacher at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington during the 2003-04 school year, according to a statement from police. Duarte resigned for unknown reasons from Wootton at the end of last school year, police said.

Stu Levin, president of the Wootton PTA, met with school officials Tuesday to discuss the arrest.

"This saddens the whole community," he said Tuesday. "But the fact is this is a police matter and not a school matter because she is a former teacher."

Levin said Duarte was "not well" when she left Wootton in the spring, but would not explain further.

Aria Warrick, a 2007 graduate of Wootton and Gaithersburg resident, said Duarte had a close relationship with students.

"She related very well to students unlike other teachers at Wootton, and went out of her way to make students feel comfortable," Warrick said. "But honestly this comes at a total surprise."

Duarte taught Warrick in English classes, served as the school's yearbook advisor, and also helped Warrick with her college applications.

Warrick said when she graduated in 2007, Duarte had mentioned leaving Montgomery County Public Schools, but didn't give a reason.

Duarte was released from the Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville after paying a $150,000 bond.

Calls to Wootton High School were not answered Tuesday afternoon.

Baur said police are continuing to investigate the accusations, and believe more students may have been involved. She said she did not believe the students Duarte allegedly sold the cocaine to would be arrested.

Anyone with more information is asked to call Family Crimes Detective K. Carvajal at 240-773-5400.