A Central High School English teacher has been placed on administrative leave as Fresno police investigate social media allegations from former students who say he asked to photograph them posing nude or in lingerie.
The scrutiny surrounding teacher Lou Standifer emerged last week when a former Clovis High School student took to social media to ask other former students whether they ever felt uncomfortable or unsafe around Standifer and if he ever said anything inappropriate.
Standifer was a teacher in the Clovis Unified School District from 2008 to 2016 and an “occasional” substitute teacher until 2018 when he joined Central Unified as a full-time teacher, according to officials from both districts.
The Bee’s efforts to reach Standifer for comment were unsuccessful. The Bee called more than a dozen phone numbers and left several messages to reach him. Half a dozen emails were also sent out to Standifer with no reply.
Officials from Clovis and Central schools said they are cooperating with the Fresno Police Department investigation. Fresno police spokesman Sgt. Jeff LaBlue confirmed the probe and said Standifer had not been arrested or formally accused of any crime.
At least 11 women commented on the Facebook post describing incidents where Standifer asked them to pose for a photo shoot. As described by the former students, the conduct involved Standifer allegedly reaching out to former students after the women had turned 18.
At least two women said they were under the age of 18 when Standifer made them uncomfortable.
One of the women said she was underage when Standifer asked to photograph her. That woman did not say whether any photographs were taken. A second woman said she was 17 when Standifer asked her several sexually-oriented questions that made her uncomfortable.
According to social media comments from nearly a dozen women, Standifer invited the former students to photo shoots, where, the women said, he encouraged them to pose in lingerie and, at least in some cases, nude.
The Bee reached out to nine women who made allegations against Standifer, and two agreed to speak on the record.
The former students who spoke with The Bee said while at least much of Standifer’s alleged behavior may not have been illegal, they felt it was highly inappropriate and, at least, unprofessional for the teacher to encourage young former students to pose in sexually revealing outfits.
Standifer has been on leave from Central High School since July 23, the day after the posts circulated widely on social media.
“Student safety is a top priority for our district, and as such, we are fully cooperating with law enforcement and will continue to do so throughout the course of their investigation,” Central Unified spokesperson Sonja Dosti told The Bee in an email.
Dosti also said that, so far, at least, none of the allegations involve current or former Central Unified students. The complaints online center around former Clovis students, who Standifer taught in various capacities for about a decade.
Clovis Unified spokesperson Kelly Avants confirmed that Standifer’s time in Clovis is part of the investigation.
“We, too, saw the posts surface on social media and have already begun to partner with law enforcement to assist fully their investigations into the allegations in those social media posts,” Avants said in a text message to The Bee.
Former Clovis students speak out about teacher
The former Clovis student whose first post first brought the issues to light described an experience she had with Standifer in September 2015 when she was 17. The Bee is not identifying the woman because she declined to comment.
On one of her social media posts, the woman said she went with Standifer to San Francisco and, during the trip, she said he asked her a string of questions that made her uncomfortable.
She said she went to the Bay Area with Standifer because she “thought of him as a father figure” and said the experience “scarred” her.
“I had an entire day-long panic attack because I realized, once we got there, this was not the day trip I thought we were going to have,” the woman wrote on social media.
On the post, the woman included screenshots she said were messages her mother sent Standifer after they returned home.
In those messages, the mother appears to reprimand Standifer for allegedly inviting the teenager to take some unspecified prescription pills and for allegedly asking questions about the teen’s sexual experiences and whether she watched pornography.
“There is a line you don’t cross with these kids, Lou,” the mother wrote. “And you crossed it … But like I said, there is no excuse for your behavior.”
It’s unclear, and the post does not say, whether the family filed any formal complaints with Clovis Unified around the time of the incident.
Former Clovis students say teacher made them ‘uncomfortable’
Kira Avery was in Standifer’s debate and speech class during her sophomore year at Clovis High in 2015.
“He was a really good mentor. He was there when I needed help, not just with teaching, but if I had problems at home or if I needed someone to be there for me,” Avery, now 21, told The Bee.
She described Standifer as the “cool, laid-back teacher.”
Avery said that a couple of weeks after she turned 18, Standifer invited her to participate in a photo shoot. Avery accepted because she was looking for someone to take her portrait so she could give them to family members and post them to social media.
They met in downtown Fresno on Feb. 17, 2017, Avery said, where they took pictures at parking garages, in front of a vintage gas station and at murals.
Avery said she began to feel awkward when she went to change clothes during the shoot and Standifer offered to help her change, which she declined. When she returned wearing a different outfit, she said, Standifer reached over and unbuttoned the top of her shirt, revealing more cleavage, and then tied the bottom of her shirt higher, exposing her stomach.
“It was definitely uncomfortable,” Avery said.
At one point, Avery said he pulled her skirt up to her hip and said that since she was 18, she could take pictures she said he described as “risque” and “trendy.”
At the end of the photo shoot, Avery said she turned down his offer to photograph her in lingerie. A few weeks later, she said, he sent her some of the photos.
Avery said she later blocked him from social media after he messaged her, asking her to send him copies of some unrelated photos she posted to social media.
“He was a teacher I was very comfortable with, and I may have been an adult, and I may have agreed to do the shoot, but my intentions were pure,” Avery said. “My intentions were to have pictures to post and give them to my family. Where his intentions were not.”
Audrey Aparicio graduated from Clovis High in 2014. She said she didn’t have Standifer as a teacher and never had interactions with him the four years she was a student at Clovis High. He followed her on Instagram three years after she graduated.
“He was very trusted and very popular,” she told The Bee. “A lot of people said he made them feel comfortable, so that’s why when he added me, I thought it was OK.”
Aparicio said Standifer sent her a message on Aug. 9, 2017, inviting her to a photo shoot, which she considered briefly before turning the offer down.
“My husband thought it was creepy,” Aparicio said. “I started going through his follower list, and it was a lot of high school alumni and high school students. It was very concerning.”
The account Standifer appeared to use at that time appears to have been taken down since then.
Fresno police said witnesses or victims who would like to come forward can call 559-621-7000 to report a crime or 559-498-STOP to report an anonymous tip.
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