Police arrested a Palo Alto High School biology teacher Wednesday night on allegations of committing sex crimes against one of his 15-year-old students.
Lt. Zach Perron said police booked 46-year-old Ronnie Farrell of Palo Alto into the Santa Clara County Main Jail on suspicion of four felonies: child molestation, sexual battery, communicating with a minor with the intent to commit a sex crime, and arranging a meeting with a minor with the intent to commit a sex crime. He has yet to be charged.
The girl's parents called police on Monday, saying their ninth grader told them that her biology teacher had touched her breasts and placed her hands on his groin. She also told her parents that she and her teacher had been chatting and messaging on social media before that.
Police, working with the teenager, messaged the teacher on social media and arranged a meeting at the high school Wednesday evening. The teacher arrived, and police were there to take him into custody.
"He thought he was going to be meeting her again," Perron said. "But instead he was met by our detectives."
Jorge Quintana with the Palo Alto Unified School District said they are working with law enforcement on the case.
"It's something that we have to take very seriously because the safety of our students is a priority for the school district," Quintana said.
The district said Farrell will be on unpaid administrative leave as the investigation continues.
Efforts to reach Farrell on Thursday were not immediately successful. He was not at home when a reporter went to knock on the door. He did not return messages left at two numbers, and he did not return an email linked to his school account. According to his Facebook page, he is married with two daughters.
He got several rave reviews on Rate My Teachers. "Best teacher ever in history!" someone posted last month. "He really cares about his students."
In a student interview last year, the interviewer asked the Scottish-born teacher "what advice would you give your teen self?
His response? “Who needs girls? You know? If there was one thing that was rough for me in high school it was I don’t think one girl ever looked at me. I think one who was blind actually turned away. It was pretty bad. So if I was to give myself some advice it would be, ‘You know what, Ronnie? You’re going to do alright in your 20s. Hang in there, buddy. Hang in there.'”