We’re learning more about a former Cleveland Public Schools staff worker charged with raping a student. Cleveland Police arrested Darla Raelene McCullough last Thursday for having an inappropriate relationship with a student.
A probable cause affidavit says McCullough, a married, 45-year-old paraprofessional at Cleveland High School, admitted to having sex with a 17-year-old student.
Cleveland Schools superintendent says a concerned citizen reported the relationship to a school principal on May 10, and the school immediately reported the allegation to police and the Department of Human Services.
Police say investigators had enough evidence to arrest McCullough that night.
The affidavit details text messages that police say McCullough and the teen exchanged.
The investigator says he found 183 photos and numerous text messages between the two. The affidavit says the messages range from small chat to each person (sender and recipient) telling each other “I love you.”
The court document says the teenager listed McCullough as “Kendra.” The teenager told investigators he didn’t want to use her real name in case someone else used his phone or went through it without his knowledge.
The investigator says he called “Kendra’s” number, and McCullough’s phone lit up.
The affidavit says the contact labeled “Kendra,” believed to be McCullough, talks about being glad to not be pregnant after taking a pill.
Police says that same contact sent a message saying, “You drive me crazy, like I want you like crazy!!! But I am holding you back from having fun as a 17 yr old.” Investigators says the contact, “Kendra” continued saying, “I love you as I love all [the] students I’ve known. I also...I have fallen for you.”
Police say “Kendra” told the teenager she missed touching his face.
The affidavit shows the teenager told “Kendra” he wanted to kiss her and “Kendra” replied saying, “No touching involved. Bahaha. That was funny.”
In another message, police say the teenager texted asking “Kendra” to promise to “make sure all of the doors are unlocked where we usually go.”
The affidavit says the teenager admitted he and McCullough had sex sometime in January in a room at The Baptist Village, a retirement home a few blocks from the school.
The affidavit says McCullough initially denied the allegations. But the affidavit says after the investigator showed McCullough the text messages he had between her and the teen, she admitted to having sex with the student at the retirement home.
The court document says McCullough also admitted to unlocking the door to a room at the high school where the two would meet up to kiss throughout the school day.
The court document says McCullough thought she might have been pregnant with the teen's child at one point and took a "Plan B" pill to keep from getting pregnant.
The investigator says McCullough said she knew what she had done was wrong and said she became involved in the inappropriate relationship because she felt empty inside.
Cleveland is out of school for the summer, but School Superintendent Dr. Aaron Espolt says McCollough was suspended after her arrested and fired after the formal charge had been filed.
"The safety and security of our students is a top priority – and the district does its due diligence to make sure students are protected," he said. "It’s unfortunate an employee took advantage of her privileges as a staff worker to manipulate the situation."
Espolt said the district performs background checks for all school employees and did so before hiring McCullough.
The boy’s mother told investigators she know McCullough and had considered her a family friend, but wanted to pursue charges.
Records show McCullough is still in the Pawnee County jail on one charge of second-degree rape.
The affidavit says it was clear to the investigator the teenager believed he was in love with school worker and genuinely wanted a relationship with her.