Whitney Laidlaw is the married middle school dance teacher who is accused of the sexual assault of a 14-year-old female student at Cornerstone Academy Middle School. The Houston-school has announced that Laidlaw, 32, a former reporter with ABC-affiliate KTRE in east Texas, has been placed on administrative leave following her arrest.
ABC Houston reports that Laidlaw is accused of the sexual assault of a child under 17 years old and of an improper relationship with a student. The alleged abuse occurred on August 1 and August 14. The ABC report says that student says she exchanged messages with Laidlaw via phone, Snapchat and Instagram. The student said that after completing the 7th grade, Laidlaw texted her to say she had feelings for the teenager. In a statement announcing her suspension, the school district referred to Laidlaw with her maiden name, Grunden. Laidlaw married Jason Laidlaw in Houston in June 2016.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Laidlaw Is Accused of Trying to Get the Student to Come & Meet Her During Summer Vacation
During the summer of 2018, the student says that Laidlaw tried to get the teenager to come and meet her, reports the Houston Chronicle. Despite the teen saying she rebuffed the advances of her teacher, Laidlaw would nonetheless show up at the victim’s house. On one occasion, the victim said she got into Laidlaw’s car and her teacher kissed her and touched her “inappropriately.”
In another instance, the teenager says that Laidlaw sent a photo showing the teacher topless. The teenager said she refused to send a video of a sexual nature to her teacher.
The messages were discovered by the teen’s father. The teenager then identified Laidlaw as the sender. When authorities first made contact with the teacher, Laidlaw refused to co-operate, reports KHOU.
Laidlaw has been released on bond and cannot have any contact with the victim or the victim’s family and must keep at least 200 feet from the victim at all times. Laidlaw can not be in contact with anyone under the age of 17 and has been forced to surrender her passport. Laidlaw cannot possess pornography, a computer or a cell phone, according to ABC Houston.
2. A Review for Laidlaw Left on Rate My Teacher the Day Before the Arrest Called her, ‘Truly an Amazing Teacher
A review left for Laidlaw on Rate My Teacher the day before her arrest. It reads, “My child fell in love with history, learned to think critically and had a blast in her class. Truly an amazing, gifted teacher.” The review before that, from June 2018, reads, “Best social studies and hip-hop teacher to ever walk the planet.” Another says, “She was the best hip-hop dance teacher i ever had and i will always remember her.” While the first review on Laidlaw’s page reads, “She’s one of the nicest teachers at Cornerstone.”
On the Spring Branch school district website, Laidlaw is listed as a language arts and social studies teacher. In 2018, Laidlaw was nominated for the school district teacher of the year award. Laidlaw was honored by the school’s PTA during the 2017-18 school year.
3. Laidlaw Was a Former Dance Teacher in Los Angeles & a Dancer for a ‘Semi-Professional Basketball Team’
Laidlaw is a former reporter with KTRE, the ABC-affiliate in east Texas. According to her profile on the station’s website, Laidlaw was born in New Braunfels, Texas, though she was raised in southern California. Laidlaw graduated from California State University Northridge, Mike Curb College of Arts Media & Communication with a degree in Broadcast Journalism in 2008. Laidlaw later told the school’s website about finding work in Texas saying, “It was a really long process in a tough economy. You have to be really persistent. I used my favorite stories that I had done, some anchoring and work from my internship for my demo reel.”
Laidlaw had worked in LA for KTTV’s Good Day LA, for her college’s radio and TV station as well as freelance reporting for Dance Channel TV. Her profile notes her role with Dance Channel as combining her “love for the arts with her passion for journalism.” The profile ends with, “When not reporting, she enjoys dancing, traveling, training and running marathons, reading, karaoke, watching movies, and spending time with loved ones.”
4. Laidlaw Is a Certified Zumba Instructor
Laidlaw also taught children’s dance classes that were open to the public. An online profile for Laidlaw says that she has been studying dance since she was a small child. Laidlaw says she studied “Ballet, Jazz, Modern, Hip-Hop, Irish-Step, Congolese, Flamenco and Musical Theatre.” In August 2010, Laidlaw became a certified Zumba instructor.
5. Female Educators Make Up a Small Fraction Teacher/Student Sexual Assault Convictions
Slate reported that female educators make up 4 percent of convicted rapists in teacher/student scandals in 2006. While in 2016, former Department of Education chief of staff, Terry Abbott, wrote in the Washington Post that teacher/student sex scandals were on the rise. For example, in Kentucky in 2011, the state saw the number of teacher/student sexual relationships nearly double.
In November 2016, Texas State Representative Tony Dale sought to pass legislation that would prevent, as Dale says, teachers merely resigning and moving. Dale said of his legislation, “HB 218 increases penalties and close loopholes that allow educators who engage in inappropriate relationships to resign and obtain employment in another district. This bill seeks to allow Texas the tools we need to get rid of teachers who prey on our children.”