Fresno Unified teacher arrested, accused of sexual contact with student in Tennessee

Photo of Janai Mercedes Smothers. (Courtesy: Fresno Police via our sister station, WZTV)

A Fresno Unified teacher has been arrested on charges of sexual battery by an authority figure. The charges stem from a case in Nashville.

According to Metro Nashville Police, former teacher Janai Mercedes Smothers was indicted by a Nashville grand jury for allegedly having unlawful physical contact with a teenage student during the 2015-2016 school year.

The 25-year-old former Nashville teacher was arrested in Fresno following the indictment and will be returned to Nashville.

According to the Fresno Unified School District, Smothers became a teacher in the district after leaving Nashville.

Fresno Unified released the following statement regarding Smothers' arrest:

"[On Monday], Fresno Unified was informed of the arrest of one of our employees. The employee was newly hired this school year and was subject to fingerprints and a national background check. The incident does not involve the district in any way. The person has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the criminal investigation."

“It’s disheartening to hear of these incidents. We strive every day to provide a safe learning environment for our students and will continue to cooperate fully with legal authorities on the investigation.” Superintendent Bob Nelson said in a statement.

Metro Nashville Public Schools released the following statement on the arrest:

"We take the safety of our students very seriously and have worked diligently to properly and clearly communicate our reporting policies to our teachers and staff to safeguard our students. MNPS does not comment on pending litigation. However, MNPS cares deeply about the students in our district and has policies and procedures that support our requirements as mandatory reporters to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Additionally, as part of MNPS’ standard practice, if there is an allegation that an employee inappropriately treated or abused a student, the employee is removed from the classroom and put on administrative leave while an investigation is conducted." -Metro Nashville Public Schools

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