A Kennewick teacher pleaded innocent Wednesday to allegations that he pursued a sexual relationship with one of the underage students at his Richland martial arts school.
Oscar Perez Garnica, 47, is scheduled for trial Jan. 9 in Benton County Superior Court on one count of third-degree child molestation.
The charge includes the aggravating circumstance that Garnica used his position of trust or confidence to commit the crime.
Garnica remains on paid administrative leave from his job as a math teacher at Kennewick High School.
Never miss a local story.
The district took action before the school year started when administrators learned of the allegations from law enforcement.
Garnica, who was sent a summons, appeared in court Wednesday with attorney Scott Johnson.
Judge Bruce Spanner set bail at $10,000. He gave Garnica until 3 p.m. Friday to post bond or turn himself in to the Benton County jail.
Garnica lives in Pasco.
The allegations stem from an encounter Garnica allegedly had with a young teen girl on Aug. 7 at Choice Martial Arts on Wellsian Way.
The girl disclosed to her counselor the following day that she was alone with Garnica when he invited her to sit on his lap, according to court documents. They eventually began kissing, and Garnica touched her inappropriately, documents said.
The teacher and student left the center together to get something to eat, then Garnica drove her home.
The two allegedly talked about having sex the next day, with Garnica saying he would bring a “glove,” referring to a condom.
When the girl learned her counselor was required by law to report the alleged encounter, she returned to the martial arts school to talk to Garnica, court documents said.
The girl’s mother, who drove her daughter to the school, was later approached by Garnica. He claimed that he hugged the teen while she was sitting on his lap and that his hand must have slipped, but denied any intentional wrongdoing, documents said.
Garnica reportedly told the mother that he had “been through this type of thing before,” and that everything would be fine aside from his name being placed on “a list” for a year.
Phone records showed that more than 400 text messages were sent between the girl and Garnica from late July until Aug. 9, court documents said.
In one message, Garnica told the girl, “You bring happiness and smiles to my life,” documents showed.
The girl’s mother then took her phone away and got a civil court order for Garnica to have no contact with the teen.