Students, Parents React to Teacher's Arrest

December 5, 2012 Updated Dec 5, 2012 at 8:15 PM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

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December 5, 2012 Updated Dec 5, 2012 at 8:15 PM EDT

East Aurora, NY (WKBW) - Police say a high school teacher is caught with crack cocaine -- and it's not the first time he's been in trouble with the law.

Ryan Ellis, a high school teacher in East Aurora, has plead guilty to DWI back in 2009 and criminal possession of a controlled substance in 2001.

Parents and students say they never would have guess Ellis had any criminal record, instead calling him a thorough and helpful teacher.

The East Aurora High School is completely caught off-guard. Students say Ellis is a popular teacher. He was also arrested on Buffalo's east side for allegedly having crack cocaine in his car.

Keith Horbachewski, a student at East Aurora High School who was in Ellis' class last year, says the school is "just kind of in disbelief, pretty shocked."

Ellis is a technology and physics teacher at the high school. He also coached golf. The superintendent's office says he started with the district in September of 2003.

Students and parents say he connected with students and was always considerate.

Keith describes Ellis as "Very helpful and always loved answering questions and helping you out to make a better students."

Katie Brown, who has a daughter at the school says Ellis is "friendly and outgoing and a lot of fun. The kids really responded to him."

Students and parents say they are not rushing to judgement. However, some say they are questioning how a teacher with Ellis' background was hired in the first place.

Ellis' DWI in Erie County occurred while he was teaching at East Aurora High School. He was also charged with petty larceny at the same time, although that charge was dismissed.

However, his plea to criminal possession of a controlled substance came two-and-a-half years before he was hired.

Court officials say Ellis was placed on probation for three years, during which time the school district says he passed a background check.

The East Aurora Union Free School District released a statement, saying "we have initiated an internal investigation into this very serious matter. While the investigation is pending, Mr. Ellis is on a leave of absence."

The statement also explains Ellis was fingerprinted and was cleared for employment by the New York State Education Department, Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability.

The school district says it is cooperating with law enforcement and has advised the New York State Education Department.