Pierce County elementary teacher, pastor charged with 9 counts of child molestation

Komo News [Seattle, WA]

April 19, 2024

By Como News staff

A Pierce County elementary school teacher and volunteer worship pastor charged with nine counts of first-degree child molestation pleaded not guilty to all charges in court Friday.

Jordan Henderson, 34, was arrested at his Gig Harbor home Thursday by Pierce County Sheriff’s Department (PCSD) deputies and booked into the county jail. The PCSD said five Evergreen Elementary School students, all girls, came forward and told officials the assaults happened at school during school hours. Deputies are asking other students who experienced inappropriate behavior to come forward.

“The defendant used his or her position of trust, confidence, or fiduciary responsibility to facilitate the commission of the current offense, and against the peace and dignity of the State of Washington,” prosecutors wrote in charging documents.

RELATED | Pierce County teacher arrested for child molestation; at least 5 victims

Henderson is accused of molesting and groping students under the age of 12. One of the students reported the assaults to her parents in February, according to PCSD Sgt. Darren Moss Jr.

Moss said the PCSD informed the Peninsula School District about the allegations, and Henderson was placed on administrative leave.

“It is always a really big concern when we get allegations of a trusted person abusing children,” Moss said. “As soon as we hear something like this it is a priority case for all of us and the school as well.”

According to court documents, the alleged incidents were talked about amongst students, and in one instance “her and several other girls in her class agreed to watch out for each other and try to witness any touching by Henderson.”

Court documents also state Henderson told one victim “the touching was something normal that teachers do, and to not go telling other people about it.”

Chris Henderson, the lead pastor at Wellspring Fellowship, a Gig Harbor Christian church, said Jordan Henderson has served as a “deacon and worship pastor,” which are two volunteer positions, since 2011. Chris Henderson — who is Jordan’s father, according to the church’s website — said Jordan Henderson is on a “leave of absence due to the current allegations/charges against him.”

“While some would have you focus on alarm bells and your greatest fears about what you do not know, I want to encourage you with confidence based on what I do know,” Wellspring Fellowship wrote on Facebook, signed by Pastor Chris Henderson. “I know Jordan to be of the highest character and quality as a man. He is a great husband, a great father, a great teacher. He and his family have the full confidence and support of our church. Please join us in asking that God reveal the full and complete truth regarding these allegations. Thank you.”

In court Friday, a judge set bail at $100,000 and ordered Henderson to be on electronic home monitoring if released. He’s also ordered to not have any contact with children except for his own. A judge denied a request for him to continue attending his church due in part to other children possibly attending. A judge also granted a protection order to the alleged victims and their families, who addressed the court, urging Henderson not to be allowed back into the community.

“My child has nightmares. She won’t say his name, and she just says my nightmare was about him again,” one parent said. “Every time his name is brought up, or she goes to counseling, all she does is sob, and it’s heartbreaking as a mom to see a child go through something like that and not be able to do anything about it.”

One young victim also addressed the court, saying she still has nightmares and she can’t sleep without crying. She also shared she is afraid Henderson will come back to the school.

“She’s scared and cowers down in the car, we can’t drive past a school building without her hiding her eyes,” her mother told the court.

‘Likely abused many other young women’

Kevin Hastings, the attorney representing one of the Evergreen students’ family, said the student told her parents the abuse happened over the course of two school years: 2022-2023 in fourth grade and 2023-2024 in fifth grade.

Hastings said the incidents prompted more questions.

“Based on our initial investigations, we believe that the teacher likely abused many other young women over the years,” the PCVA attorney said. “School districts in Washington state have a responsibility to protect children in their custody. The responsibility includes a requirement to act reasonably and to avoid ignoring red flags that a member of faculty or staff is sexually assaulting children.”

Peninsula School District Superintendent Krestin Bahr sent the following statement to staff and families:

“As the Superintendent of the Peninsula School District, I take the safety and well-being of our students very seriously and want to assure our community that these allegations are in stark opposition to everything we stand for,” Bahr wrote. “As our community navigates this troubling situation, I want to thank you for keeping the safety and well-being of our students at the forefront of your thoughts and actions.”