A Merced High School science teacher was arrested last week after a Merced County Sheriff’s deputy allegedly caught him engaged in “inappropriate physical contact” with a 16-year-old student.
Blia Yang, 30, and the student were found in a pickup truck parked around the corner from the sheriff’s office, said Sgt. Delray Shelton.
Yang was booked into Merced County Jail about 7:30 p.m. Friday on suspicion of one count of oral copulation with a minor and one count of sexual intercourse with a minor. He posted bail and was released from custody a short time later, according to booking records.
Yang has taught physics, Advanced Placement chemistry and other classes at Merced High School for five years, according to the school website. He has been placed on administrative leave, Merced Union High School District officials said Tuesday.
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Shelton was returning to work around 4:45 p.m. Friday, driving on 21st Street when he spotted a female in the driver’s seat of a four-door Toyota pickup truck. The girl was seated with her back to steering wheel, Shelton told the Sun-Star. The vehicle was parked in front of the Merced County Courthouse, around the corner from the Sheriff’s Office.
“I went to make contact and observed an adult male and younger female in the truck,” Shelton said.
Yang and the girl initially claimed they came to Courthouse Park to play “Pokemon Go” and Yang fell asleep, deputies said.
Evidence inside the truck, however, led Shelton to believe the two were engaged in inappropriate sexual activities. He did not comment on the alleged evidence. Upon further investigation, Shelton said, the 16-year-old admitted to “an ongoing sexual relationship” with Yang, her teacher.
“We believe the relationship had been going on for at least a month, but the case is still under investigation,” Shelton said.
Yang denied engaging in anything inappropriate with the student, deputies said.
In a statement issued Tuesday, school officials confirmed Yang was placed on administrative leave. The district was notified of the arrest by law enforcement and is cooperating with the investigation, said Ralph Calderon, assistant superintendent for human resources.
“Protecting the health and safety of our students is the top priority of the Merced Union High School District,” the statement said.
In a short biography on his class website, Yang said he was born in a refugee camp in Thailand and arrived in the U.S. to Modesto when he was 6 years old. He graduated from Modesto High School in 2005 and earned his bachelor’s degree from California State University, Sacramento. He earned his teaching credential the following year.
“I have a passion for science and I hope you will see this in my classes,” the biography read.
Yang told investigators he originally is from Fresno and recently moved to Merced after living in Modesto for a time. He also told investigators he is married with children, deputies said.
Merced Police Department detectives have taken over the investigation since the allegations appear to have happened within their jurisdiction, according to Detective Sgt. Curt Gorman.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482