HAYS COUNTY, Texas — An employee of the Head Start program is behind bars after being accused of inappropriately touching three students enrolled in Hays County.

Mark Anthony Ortega Jr., 29, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with three counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact.

According to an affidavit obtained by KVUE from Hays County, Ortega was a substitute teaching assistant for the Head Start program. All of the children named were reportedly under the age of six.

According to the affidavit, on March 8, a Hays County deputy was notified by a Head Start director that a teacher had witnessed Ortega inappropriately touching a five-year-old child. That teacher also informed the deputy of an instance two weeks prior when Ortega may have locked a four-year-old child in the classroom restroom with him. While still at the school, the deputy was informed of a third child, a four-year-old who was reporting to a family member they had also been inappropriately touched by Ortega.

The affidavit stated the three children were forensically interviewed, where the first and third child said Ortega did touch them inappropriately. The second child was reluctant to speak about any indecency and did not wish to continue the interview.

On March 14, the Hays County deputy conducted a non-custodial interview with Ortega, where he admitted to touching all three children inappropriately.

According to Hays County CISD, Head Start is independent of the district, but it does use space at Uhland Elementary School. Because the alleged incidents occurred at one of its campuses, a letter was sent to parents of the elementary school as soon as school leaders learned of the allegations. An additional letter was released upon Ortega's arrest.

The school district also noted that Head Start employees are not employed by the district, but they are required to undergo the same "rigorous" employment standards, which include fingerprint background checks.

Hays CISD said it made counselors from the district available to all Uhland Elementary students, parents and staff members once it learned of the allegations. The school will continue to make counselors available upon return from spring break.

Head Start is a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provides early childhood education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families.  

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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