CRANE, TX (KWES) - Court proceedings were delayed Thursday morning in the case against a former Crane school employee indicted on charges of sexual assault of a child.
Silena Louise Townsend, 30, was set to accept a plea deal before the hearing was postponed, according to Crane County Courthouse officials.
She was arrested on April 10 and indicted by a grand jury the following month for allegedly having sex with a boy under age 17.
The inappropriate relationship began "on or around June 2013," the indictment stated.
Townsend and her attorney could not be reached for comment.
Crane County Sheriff Robert DeLeon declined to discuss details of the investigation, including the victim's age. However, multiple sources close to Townsend told NewsWest 9 the boy was 14 when she began sleeping with him.
Former colleagues said Townsend worked as a teacher's aide at the Crane Independent School District and "frequently" communicated with the teenager through Facebook messages. Crane ISD Superintendent Jim Rumage confirmed Thursday she is no longer employed by the district.
Terry Abbott, chairman of Drive West Communications and a former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education, said Texas leads the nation in arrests stemming from inappropriate relationships between students and school employees.
"We're seeing a nationwide epidemic and the epicenter of that epidemic is Texas," he told NewsWest 9. "Texas has twice as many [of these cases] as any other state... It's almost a culture... [where] these kinds of inappropriate relationships are no big deal."
According to Abbott, available studies tracking publicized incidents only represent the "tip of the iceberg."
"I cannot even guess how many more [cases of these inappropriate school relationships] have gone unreported," he said.
The rise of social media and text messaging is partially to blame, Abbott explained. He believes the increased availability and widespread use of digital communication creates more opportunities for predators to strike unnoticed.
"Schools need to implement new social media and texting policies," Abbott said. "That would be an aggressive, effective response to this epidemic... We need a system where schools allow a teacher to communicate with a student in a way that anybody can know about any time."
It's unclear if Crane ISD administrators have plans to adopt such a policy.