School fires teacher accused in tryst with two students

Riverdale Christian Academy administrators fired English teacher Ashley Dowden following her confession to sheriff’s deputies last week that she had sex with a 16-year-old student.

The Rev. Preston Thompson, pastor of Redeemer Baptist Church, which is affiliated with Riverdale Christian Academy, said Wednesday that Dowden originally was placed on administrative leave following her arrest Friday.

Dowden was arrested after admitting that she had sex with a 16-year-old boy and had exchanged nude photos and explicit text messages with him, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

When school officials learned Dowden admitted to deputies that she had sex with the student, they fired her, Thompson said. The move is retroactive to Aug. 21, he said.

Attempts to reach Dowden on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

The firing came before sheriff’s deputies issued Dowden a misdemeanor summons Tuesday for inappropriate conduct between a teacher and student following an 18-year-old student’s allegations that she went to his house in April during her lunch break and had sex with him.

Louisiana Revised Statute 14:81.4, states inappropriate conduct between a teacher and a student is defined as a school employee having sex with a student who is between 17 and 21.

“Even before this misdemeanor charge was added, her employment at Riverdale Christian Academy was terminated,” Thompson said.

The school puts language in all contracts allowing them to terminate any school employee at any time, he said.

Thompson said sheriff’s deputies told him after the first allegations against Dowden that they had no reason to suspect she had slept with other students. Investigators reiterated that statement to him following the allegations made by the second student.

She was booked into Parish Prison on Friday on counts of computer-aided solicitation of a juvenile, indecent behavior with a juvenile and carnal knowledge of a juvenile. She has since been released on bail.

Thompson said there were no complaints made against Dowden by parents or teachers before the first arrest, and he has heard no talk in the hallways or among faculty of any more students coming forward with additional allegations.

Dowden joined Riverdale Christian Academy in August 2013 and was just over a week into her second year when she was arrested Friday.

Thompson said school Principal Paul Miceli told him no red flags were raised in vetting Dowden or when school officials called to check her references before hiring her.

Dowden has spent over 14 years teaching subjects such as English, creative writing, theater and art appreciation, according to her biographical page on the school’s website that has since been taken down. She also worked as an educational coordinator for Playmakers of Baton Rouge, a children’s theater.