Marijuana plants. File photo via Wikimedia Commons

A former Imperial County high school teacher who allegedly provided marijuana and alcohol to underage students during a school-sanctioned camping trip in the Laguna Mountains was charged Tuesday with felony and misdemeanor counts.

Monique Garcia, 50, formerly of Southwest High School in El Centro, is accused of purchasing and providing the substances to around 16 Southwest High students in the Outdoor Adventure Club, a camping and hiking group at the school.

The alleged offenses occurred during a February 2019 weekend trip, during which she acted as a supervisor for the students, many of whom were minors.

She faces eight years and four months in state prison if convicted of all charges, which include felony counts of furnishing minors with cannabis and using a minor to transport cannabis, and misdemeanor counts of providing alcohol to minors, endangering children and contributing to the delinquency of minors.

Deputy District Attorney Stephen Marquardt said Garcia had a 17-year- old student drive her to a grocery store to purchase alcohol, then to a dispensary to purchase marijuana, which was later provided to the students.

“When we take our kids to school, when we drop them off at school, when we entrust a teacher or a coach or whoever it may be in an educational setting with our children, we are expecting that our children are in safe hands, that they’re being protected and they’re being nurtured,” Marquardt said. “She violated that trust. She endangered those children.”

Central Union High School District officials issued a statement in which they said Garcia was no longer employed with the school. Garcia remains out of custody on $100,000 bail and is due back in court May 11 for a readiness conference.

The case is the first prosecuted following the inception of the District Attorney’s Student Safety in School Systems Task Force, which reviews reports of physical, sexual and other types of abuse toward students. The task force, established last November, investigates and evaluates claims of student abuse submitted to the District Attorney’s Office by members of the public.

–City News Service

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