DeLAND, Fla. – A physical education teacher and volleyball coach at a private Christian school in DeLand was arrested Saturday night on charges he repeatedly sent sexually suggestive messages to a 14-year-old girl, according to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.
Stephen M. Ward, 69, of Stetson Baptist Christian School, was charged with using an electronic device to seduce/solicit/lure a child and using a two-way communication device to commit a felony, according to deputies. He was taken into custody Saturday evening to be interviewed before transport to the Volusia County Branch Jail, where he was to be held on $20,000 bail, deputies said.
Deputies said around 1:19 a.m. Saturday, a deputy responded to the victim’s residence after her mother discovered text messages between the 14-year-old and Ward. The messages from Ward were sexually suggestive and referenced him performing sex acts on the victim, according to deputies.
Deputies said the victim told a deputy she has been in a relationship with Ward for about two weeks; she said the two have never had physical contact.
Dan Glenn, pastor at Stetson Baptist Church, gave a statement on Sunday that was livestreamed on the church's website. In it, he acknowledged that Ward has been accused of "attempting to begin an improper relationship with a minor."
Glenn said Ward has been placed on unpaid administrative leave from the school. He also said that the school has been complying with the law enforcement investigation.
"In the meantime, as a church our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved in this situation. Especially the young woman involved and her family," Glenn said.
The Sheriff’s Office detectives are asking anyone else who had contact with Ward to contact the VCSO Child Exploitation Unit (386-323-3574) if it’s believed anything suspicious or inappropriate occurred.