A 25-year-old Texas man was arrested on Friday after he allegedly posed as a would-be high school basketball star for months and dated a 14-year-old girl.
Sidney Bouvier Gilstrap-Portley of Mesquite, Texas, was arrested and charged with tampering with government records after he enrolled at two Dallas, Texas, schools as a 17-year-old boy named Rashun Richardson, spokesperson for the Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD), Robyn Harris, tells PEOPLE.
He was booked into the Dallas County Jail and posted bond, according to the Dallas Morning News. An attorney for him was not listed.
Gilstrap-Portley had deceived school administrators following Hurricane Harvey using the fact that the storm laid waste to homes and schools to his advantage when he enrolled at Hillcrest High School in October 2017, Harris says.
“We have kind of looked at this as a perfect storm as it became a very complex story toward this individual who posed as a student,” says Harris.
Gilstrap-Portley enrolled first at Skyline High School before he was transferred to Hillcrest High School as a Hurricane Harvey evacuee.
“He was a normal student, he was not in any sort of misconduct challenges. He was truly a good student by all indications,” says Harris. “He was a little low-key. They now believe, more in hindsight, that there was a reason for that.”
His reason? An alleged desire to reinvent himself as a basketball star on the school’s team. He succeeded in playing on the team until a former coach of his during his actual high school days spotted him at a tournament the weekend of April 27.
“My understanding is that the coach learned he was playing in Hillcrest. He reached out to the coach at Hillcrest and they immediately alerted the school administrators and began a formal investigation,” says Harris.
The school district’s own police force also began an investigation and security measures were put in place should Gilstrap-Portley return to the school.
He did not, however, return after being confronted by his former coach, who provided his real name of Gilstrap-Portley to the school.
Once school officials were able to verify his real birth name, they concluded Gilstrap-Portley had graduated from Mesquite North High School in 2011.
“We can surmise this was brought on by an effort to relive his glory days as a basketball student,” says Harris. “That’s our own personal belief.”
The Dallas Morning News reported Gilstrap-Portley was allegedly in a relationship with a 14-year-old girl at Hillcrest High.
The student’s mother, who spoke to the outlet on condition of anonymity, said her daughter believe he was 17, not 25.
“It’s unbelievable to me that he could get away with this,” the mother said. “I don’t know what, how [the school] let this slip through the cracks.”
She added her daughter had told her their relationship had not been sexual, the Dallas Morning News reported.
“He was always respectful to me. He said he understood my concerns but said that he was only 17 and that he didn’t see a problem with them dating,” the woman said. “I’m upset, frustrated, angry and sad at the time same time.”
“If it’s happening at Hillcrest, then it could be happening somewhere else. People need to know,” she added.
After Harvey left many without homes or schools to return to, Harris says Dallas ISD was “very supportive toward opening our doors to any families experiencing traumatic circumstances as a result of” the hurricane.
“We allowed students in without documentation knowing we’d fill in the pieces later,” she says. “We knew we were helping our fellow Texans, but that was just one piece of it. Not only did this man exploit that opportunity, he was very savvy in creating a story.”
Gilstrap-Portley’s story was one of homelessness, allegedly telling school officials he had no home address and was an unaccompanied minor, says Harris.
Harris says the school district has programs in place to support homeless students or those without parental guardians.
“We had a double layer of deceit and we were in a position to help, just like we would help any other student who was homeless or an evacuee,” says Harris.
She adds the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act also worked in Gilstrap-Portley’s favor. The act was set in place to provide assistance to homeless students and ensure their educational rights.
It also allows for a less rigorous standard of information to be required when enrolling in a school, says Harris.
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Harris says Dallas ISD was still investigating all aspects of the incident, including Gilstrap-Portley’s relationship with the underage female student.
In a letter to students and parents, the high school’s principal Chris Bayer the “safety of our students” is “our top priority.”
“We recently became aware of a student enrolled at our school under false pretenses claiming to be a displaced Hurricane Harvey victim,” the letter read. “After learning about this situation, we immediately notified district and local authorities and necessary actions have been taken.”
“We believe it is absolutely essential that every young person, especially in times of great difficulty, feels safe and secure, and that was the guiding principle when we were welcoming students displaced by the hurricane. This is a unique situation that shows us areas that need improving when we open our doors to students in times of need. Safety is always our top priority, and we are reviewing district policies to strengthen district efforts while still helping those who are in need.”