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Santa Fe, Española schools face suit over former teacher

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

The former teacher, Gary Gregor, worked for the Santa Fe schools before he was employed at Fairview Elementary in Española.

He resigned from Santa Fe schools and received a state reprimand in 2005 after allegations about his behavior with girls, according to previous court records and the new lawsuit, but still was hired later for the teaching job in Española.

The new suit says he had worked at Santa Fe’s Agua Fria Elementary and got into trouble when docents at the Museum of International Folk Art reported observing him fondling girls on a field trip, leading to a notice of discharge.

The Santa Fe Rape Crisis Center later reported after a “Project Aware” class that girls said Gregor would get an erection while they sat on his lap. But police and the Children, Youth and Families Department weren’t notified, the suit says. When Gregor agreed to resign in 2004, SFPS agreed to give him a “neutral reference” for future jobs, the suit states.

Gregor’s case became public in 2011 when he filed an appeal, later dropped, after the state Public Education Department failed to renew his teaching license, following accusations about his behavior with Española students.

The case raised questions about how Gregor was able to move among different school districts despite repeated accusations against him, starting with earlier allegations in Utah.

Efforts to reach Gregor for comment this week were unsuccessful. But in 2011, Gregor, apparently through his attorney, contested the testimony of girls during PED hearings, according to court records.

In the new suit, filed in state District Court, parents of a then-fourth-grade student at Fairview Elementary in 2008 say Gregor put his hand under the daughter’s skirt, asked her to spend the night at his house and gave her a teddy bear and other gifts.

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, saying the school districts failed to protect the daughter and other girls, didn’t adequately screen Gregor before hiring and failed to report the alleged abuse.

One of the parents who filed the suit did make a complaint to Española police in 2009, the suit says, but apparently no charges were filed.