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SF, Espanola schools face suit over same teacher, accused of misbehavior with girls

SANTA FE, N.M. — A man who lost his New Mexico teacher’s license in 2011 after facing allegations of improper contact with female students is now the focus of lawsuit that names as defendants the teacher, the Santa Fe and Española school districts and principals in both school systems.

The former teacher, Gary Gregor, had worked at Santa Fe Public Schools before was employed at Fairview Elementary in Española.

He was reprimanded for his behavior in Santa Fe and resigned, according to records previously filed in court and the new lawsuit, but still was hired later for a teaching job in Española.

His case became public in 2011 when he filed an appeal that was later dropped after the state Public Education Department failed to renew his teaching license, following accusations of improper behavior with female students in Española.

The case raised questions about how Gregor was able to move among different school districts after facing repeated accusations of wrongdoing, starting with allegations in Utah before he was hired on in New Mexico.

Efforts to reach Gregor Monday for comment were unsuccessful.

In 2011, Gregor, apparently through his attorney, disparaged the testimony of girls during PED’s consideration of the accusations against him and questioned why they hadn’t reported them to police.

In the new suit, filed last week in state District Court in Santa Fe, parents of a fourth-grade student at Fairview Elementary in 2008 say Gregor asked their daughter twice to spend the night at his home, offered her gifts like candy and teddy bears and touched her private parts ,and that the daughter said he was also touching her friends.

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, saying the school districts and officials failed to protect the girl and didn’t adequately screen Gregor before hiring him.

Similar accusations came up when the PED failed to renew Gregor’s teaching license in 2011.

PED chief Hanna Skandera, in her written decision then, cited testimony in a PED hearing from students and school officials.

One girl testified that Gregor, then age 55, gave her a cellphone and would call her every day; once “put his hand inside her pants;” invited her to his house for dinner and to stay over; gave her gifts like a teddy bear and once tried to get her into a closet to kiss her.

According to Skandera’s 2011 order, Fidel Trujillo, then assistant superintendent in Española, testified at Gregor’s license hearing that Gregor admitted giving students gifts “but omitted any mention of giving teddy bears;” confirmed “that the student he had given the cellphone to was a student he invited to his house;” and denied calling students, although a student told Trujillo that Gregor “called her between 10 and 20 times per night.”

According to the PED, Gregor worked for the Española schools from 2005 to 2009 and then was placed on administrative leave before being terminated in May 2010.

He worked for Santa Fe Public Schools from August 2000 through May 2002 and again from August 2003 to May 2004, SFPS has said. The new lawsuit indicates he worked at Santa Fe’s Agua Fria Elementary.

In 2004, Gregor signed an agreement to resign from Santa Fe Public Schools in lieu of going through discharge proceedings, according to Skandera’s order denying renewal of his teaching license and the new lawsuit.

The new lawsuit Gregor got into trouble with Santa Fe school officials when it was reported that docents at the Museum of International Folk Art observed him fondling girls during a field trip, leading to a notice of discharge.

The Santa Fe Rape Crisis Center eventually wrote a report after a “Project Aware” class, indicating girls said Gregor would get an erection while they sat on his lap. But police and the Children, Youth and Families Department were never notified, the suit maintains. When Gregor agreed to resign, the district agreed to give him a “neutral reference” for future employment, the suit states.

In 2005, the PED had issued a reprimand to Gregor for “among other things, having fourth-grade girls frequently sit on his lap, at which time he would hug them, put his arm around their waists and tickle them on their stomach or arm.”

A PED spokesman said in 2011 said PED’s 2005 reprimand of Gregor was on record for any district considering him for employment. The Española district did not provide comment then about whether district officials were aware of his reprimand in Santa Fe when he was hired in Española.

The PED also said in 2011 that in 1996 in Utah, Gregor was reprimanded for “lack of professional judgment” as a teacher. The new suit says he was actually charged in 1995 with two felony counts of aggravated sex abuse of a child and one misdemeanor count of lewdness involving a child, but the charges were dropped by a judge who said his alleged acts didn’t constitute criminal behavior.

In 2009, Española police investigated Gregor after a father complained. Detective Bryan Martinez said students and parents were interviewed and information was turned over to the District Attorney’s Office, but apparently no charges were ever filed.

PED hearing

According to his court appeal in 2011, Gregor was given notice in August 2010 that his teaching license wouldn’t be renewed. Gregor subsequently was issued a license by mistake.

The case eventually went to “a full administrative evidentiary hearing” before a hearing officer, who recommended to Skandera that the license renewal be denied. Other evidence cited in Skandera’s order against Gregor’s license renewal included:

  • A second girl said Gregor had invited her to his house for dinner and to sleep over, once licked or kissed her ear and also gave her a teddy bear and some pens with his name on them.
  • A third student said that she also was given gifts by Gregor, including bears, and that he would “touch her legs, private parts and kiss her cheek and that he threatened her if she told.” He also invited her to his house but she declined, this girl testified.