James Giannopoulos
Phoenix Police Department

Former Kyrene Centennial Middle School sixth-grade teacher James Giannopoulos was arrested Thursday night on suspicion of luring a minor for sexual exploitation, according to Kyrene School District officials.

According to Phoenix Police Department spokesman Tommy Thompson, a Centennial teacher noticed Giannopoulos and a student were "physically close" and contacted the school's resource officer, who contacted the Family Investigations Bureau.

During the investigation, detective discovered hundreds of texts between Giannopoulos and the 15-year-old victim. In those texts, Giannopoulos offered and solicited sexual acts. The victim did the same.

Giannopoulos was booked into Maricopa County Jail on Thursday night.

Giannopoulos was first hired at the district in 1987, and began teaching at Centennial in 1990, they said. He taught sixth-grade science.

District spokesperson Kelly Alexander said information about the allegations was shared with the school’s principal, Jocelyn Sims, and she began her an investigation on Feb. 28.

This is Sims’ first year as principal for Centennial.

“Pretty quickly into the investigation she believed that she had to contact Phoenix police, so she did that through our school resource officer (SRO) at Centennial,” Alexander said on Friday. “She reported whatever she had learned to the SRO, which is the police department, and they began their investigation.”

A community letter was sent to parents by Superintendent Dr. David Schauer Friday morning, sharing information regarding the issue.

“As you may hear in news reports, a Kyrene teacher, Mr. James Giannopoulos, was arrested on luring a minor for sexual exploitation,” Schauer said.

On March 3, after working in conjunction with the principal at Centennial regarding the allegations, Schauer said they enacted measures to ensure that Giannopoulos would not be permitted to return to any Kyrene properties.

“He has not been at work since Monday. We contacted the Phoenix police regarding the allegations, and are fully cooperating with them on their investigation,” Schauer said. “Kyrene follows all standard safety procedures for teachers in the Kyrene School District and they must hold a valid Fingerprint Clearance Card issued by the State of Arizona Department of Public Safety and a valid teacher certificate from the Arizona Department of Education. The District routinely audits clearance card records to ensure that they are current and remain valid. This was the case with Mr. Giannopoulos,” Schauer’s statement said.

As far as police know, there was only one victim. But the investigation is ongoing and police ask anyone with information to call the Family Investigations Bureau at 602-534-3200 or Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dochoa@ahwatukee.com.

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