COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — A former teacher charged with having sex with an underage student made his first court appearance Wednesday in Collier County. Joseph Mejia, 37, is charged with four counts of lewd and lascivious battery on a minor between the ages of twelve and sixteen, and one count of lewd and lascivious molestation. A judge set Mejia's bond at $2.5 million - $500,000 for each count.
Mejia was a substitute teacher at Gulf Coast Charter Academy on Airport-Pulling Road near Radio Road in Naples.
The Collier County Sheriff's Office began investigating Mejia on Monday, after the victim's mother took her daughter's phone as part of a punishment. The mother told deputies that she found sexually explicit text messages between the girl and Mejia.
According to his arrest report, Mejia's allegedly relationship with the girl began in early March. When the victim stayed home sick from school one day, Mejia allegedly went to her home to have sex with her.
The report states that the victim detailed several other sexual encounters with Mejia, including once in their classroom.
Mejia was arrested Tuesday.
Jackie Stephens, CEO of the Children's Advocacy Center of Collier County, said that parents should always pay attention to any signs of trouble with their teens, no matter how subtle.
"You just have to be really aware of what's going on in your child's life," Stephens said. "Communicate and talk, and take notice of any subtle changes, or maybe overt changes."
The judge ordered that Mejia have no contact with minors, even his own children.
The Gulf Coast Charter Academy released a statement, reading in part: "When these allegations were brought to the school's attention, school administration immediately informed the authorities who began their investigation into the matter. The substitute's contract with the school was terminated immediately. The health and safety of our students, as well as the trust of our community, remains the highest priority of our school."