NATIONAL CITY, Calif. — Jacqueline Ma, who was awarded San Diego County “Teacher of the Year” in August, is behind bars without the option to post bail as she faces 14 felony charges.
Ma, 34, was re-arrested Thursday for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a former 13-year-old student, according to police.
Ma faces the following 14 felony charges:
- 2 counts lewd acts with a child under the age of 14
- 7 counts of possession of child pornography
- 4 counts of sexual exploitation of a child
- 1 count of dissuading a victim or witness
“The final charge, which is dissuading a witness, probably is based on a text or conversation that they had with the young gentlemen, that she said this was secret, to not tell anyone about it, so that’s trying to dissuade witness from reporting the charge,” Criminal Defense Lawyer Gretchen von Helms said.
Ma was arrested twice in just a matter of days as police continued to investigate the case.
“When she was arrested the first time it was for the acts, the lewd and lascivious acts on the child, the second time when they arrested her, they had gone through her phone and determined there were more charges based on what they found in her phone,” von Helms added. “This is a very, very serious case, anything involving sexual conduct with a child is taken very seriously with the district attorneys office in this county.”
She said if Ma is convicted of the 14 charges as they stand, she faces up to 25 years in prison.
According to online records from California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing, Ma has had her credential in California since 2013.
“While this entire situation is indeed deeply troubling, we appreciate that law enforcement is dedicating resources to secure the facts and keeping our school district and community informed of their progress,” Superintendent of the National School District Leighangela Brady said in a statement to FOX 5 Friday. “We want to confirm to our school community that the employee is on leave and will not be returning to the campus. We are grateful to our entire school community for facing this situation with a shared commitment to do all that we can to maintain our children’s education without interruption.”
The district had said in a previous statement the student involved is no longer in the school district.
These allegations came to light on March 6, when National City Police officers said they were informed by Ma’s former student’s parents, who they believed was having an inappropriate relationship with Ma. On March 7, Ma was arrested while at her work at Lincoln Acres Elementary School.
Ma was booked into Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility on six felony charges, and then posted a $100,000 bond and was released from custody. NCPD detectives continued to investigate and said they had probable cause to re-arrest Ma on additional felony charges.
“On March 9, 2023, NCPD detectives conducted a surveillance operation and arrested Ma in the 3300 block of National Avenue in the City of San Diego.,” the police said in a statement Thursday.
Ma was rebooked into Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility and is not eligible for bail.
She is set to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. Monday.
Ma was awarded Teacher of the Year by the San Diego County Office of Education for this school year, 2022-2023.
According to the SDCOE, “County Teachers of the Year are chosen from a pool of teachers nominated by their school districts for their commitment to students, teaching, and lifelong learning…. They are chosen based on school-community involvement, teaching philosophy, knowledge of current educational issues and trends, promotion and development of the teaching profession, school culture, and ability to serve as ambassadors of education.”
FOX 5 asked if the office will rescind Ma’s title as Teacher of the Year, to which they replied: “We will take action as appropriate upon conclusion of the legal process.”
“We are shocked and saddened by allegations of inappropriate conduct by a local teacher of the year. While the legal process unfolds, our focus is on supporting the school district in providing a safe, stable learning environment for students,” the office said in an email to FOX 5 Friday.
When FOX 5 talked with Ma’s neighbors after the initial arrest, they said they were shocked to hear the allegations and said they often see Ma, along with her husband and their dog in the neighborhood.