SOUTHBRIDGE (CBS) – A former Southbridge teacher was arrested Wednesday for allegedly sending inappropriate pictures to a student.
A school resource officer at Soutbridge Middle/High School received a tip that then ESL teacher Joseph Zuniga, 22, may have been sending inappropriate pictures to a 17-year-old male student.
Officers said Zuniga sent 10 photos last fall when he was a substitute teacher and the boy was 16-years old. He allegedly sent the same photos again in August using Facebook Messenger. Police also said Zuniga and the student had met before at church, and Zuniga friend-requested the student last fall.
This year the teen was a student in Zuniga’s classroom. Officers said the student never responded to the naked photos. Police say some of the photos include Zuniga’s face.
Investigators say Zuniga told them this: “He didn’t think there was anything wrong with it because he was friendly with the student and the student was 17,” said Chief Shane Woodson, Southbridge police department.
The Webster man has been charged with dissemination of obscene matter to a minor.
In a statement, Southbridge Public Schools said it will hold a community meeting on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to answer questions from the community. The meeting will take place in the Cole Ave. Administrative Building.
“The school department is extremely alarmed by these charges and has taken immediate steps to ensure the safety of our students. Effective today, this individual is no longer an employee with the district and we have requested a no trespass order through the police department,” school officials said.
Zuniga was released on $500 cash bail on Wednesday. When he left the police station, his mother quickly threw a sweatshirt on his head and rushed him to a car.
Zuniga also worked at Worcester State’s Latino Education Institute. They have also let him go.
Officers say Zuniga turns 23 years old on Thursday, when he will be arraigned in Dudley District Court.