By Joe Nelson | jnelson@scng.com and Scott Schwebke | sschwebke@scng.com | San Bernardino Sun
Published: November 9, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Updated: November 9, 2018 at 7:17 pm

Redlands police have arrested a former high school drama teacher on suspicion of having sex with two underage students and possession of child pornography, making him the third former teacher in the school district to be charged with sexual abuse in the past five years.

Former Redlands High School teacher Joel Everett Chandler Koonce, 27, of LaVerne, has been arrested on suspicion of molesting two students from 2016 through 2018 and producing child pornography. He was fired by Redlands Unified School District last November and is the latest former teacher of the school district to be accused of sexually abusing students. Police believe there are more victims, and are encouraging anyone who may have been molested by Koonce to come forward.

Joel Everett Chandler Koonce, a La Verne resident who began teaching at Redlands High School in September 2016, was taken into custody just after 10:30 a.m. Thursday in Ontario. He was booked at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga on suspicion of sodomy with a person under the age of 18, sex with a foreign object, oral copulation with a person under the age of 18, sex with a minor and possession of child pornography.

Koonce, 27, was being held without bail, but it was not immediately clear why bail was not offered. He is scheduled for arraignment Tuesday in San Bernardino Superior Court, according to jail records.

Koonce allegedly engaged in sex acts with the two female students from 2016, beginning when they were 16 years old, through 2018. Koonce was suspended by Redlands Unified School District in October 2017 and fired a month later, but the alleged sexual relationships continued into 2018, police said in a news release.

Redlands police believe there could be other victims, and encourage anyone with information to contact Detective Elyzabeth Green at 909-335-4714.
Performance issues surfaced first

In a news release, Redlands Unified on Friday said problems with Koonce began in July 2017 with performance issues that had nothing to do with sexual misconduct, then escalated in October 2017, when an employee reported Koonce for alleged misconduct involving a student. A report was filed with child protective services, then the Redlands Police Department, and Koonce was suspended. But, at the time, the investigation could not corroborate any criminal wrongdoing.

The following month, Koonce was fired.

“Based on the fact that the district had lost faith in Koonce to properly carry out his duties and responsibilities, and the fact that he was still within his probationary period as defined by the Education Code, the decision was made to release him from his contract with the district in November of 2017,” the news release said.

Despite Koonce’s termination, the allegations against him did not cease. In July 2018, a school district employee heard a rumor that Koonce was still engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct with students, and a second mandated report was submitted again to child protective services, prompting another investigation, according to the school district.

Last month, one of the alleged victims came forward with new allegations, prompting a follow-up investigation by police, and a second victim was discovered, leading to Koonce’s arrest, police said in a news release.

Attorney Morgan Stewart, of the Irvine law firm Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, said he represents four alleged victims of Koonce, including the two he was arrested for allegedly abusing, but has yet to file a legal claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, against the school district.

To read expanded article, click here.