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APS kindergarten teacher held on child porn charges

Joshua Weitz, a teacher at Whittier Elementary School, has been arrested and charged with distributing child pornography. (MDC)

WEITZ: Has worked at 3 Albuquerque schools

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A kindergarten teacher at Whittier Elementary School is behind bars after an investigation by the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office discovered he was allegedly sharing and downloading child pornography.

Whittier’s principal, Misti Miller, sent a letter to parents letting them know that teacher Joshua Weitz had been arrested Wednesday morning.

“Joshua Weitz, a kindergarten teacher here at Whittier Elementary since August, was arrested before school this morning on criminal charges involving child pornography,” Miller wrote. “At this point, there is no evidence or allegations that the charges involve children in Albuquerque.”

Weitz, 39, was placed on paid administrative leave, and a substitute will take over his class today, Miller said.

Weitz has worked at three public elementary schools around the city since 2013, said Monica Armenta, a spokeswoman for Albuquerque Public Schools. He taught fifth grade at Carlos Rey Elementary School and kindergarten at La Luz Elementary School, she said, before he was hired in August as a kindergarten teacher at Whittier Elementary School, near San Mateo and Gibson SE.

“He passed a background check in 2013,” she said. “There were no red flags raised at that point, and there was nothing else we were aware of.”

Armenta said the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office notified the district Wednesday morning that it was about to arrest Weitz at his house on Tulane NE. APS officials informed parents and brought in counselors to speak with children and families, she said.

“Our goal is always to make sure the parents and family get notification from district, not the media or anyone else,” Armenta said. “The parents were surprised and concerned – obviously, the news is of great concern.”

A special agent with the Attorney General’s Office conducted an investigation on an Internet IP address registered to Weitz’s home. Between Oct. 11 and Oct. 22, someone signing on to the Internet from the IP address shared 25 files containing child pornography with the special agent, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court.

A sheriff’s deputy who served a search warrant on Weitz’s home Wednesday morning found a computer with 40 child pornography files in the downloads folder, according to the complaint. Weitz told deputies that he had set up the wireless Internet connection at his home and that he lives alone.

In a post on its Facebook page, the Sheriff’s Office said it learned Weitz was a teacher in Albuquerque and worked with children outside New Mexico.

“At this point, we do not have reason to believe that Weitz has been physically involved with any children, but detectives are asking anyone who may have information about sexual misconduct by this individual to contact them at 505-288-0009,” the post says.

Weitz is charged with 25 counts of distributing child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. He is being held in the Metropolitan Detention Center on $380,000 bail.

APS Board of Education President Don Duran said about the arrest, “School safety is of the utmost importance. We have to be sure the kids are safe, and I am happy that APS took appropriate and immediate action.”

Asked whether he felt school safety is adequate, Duran said, “Absolutely. We are working with the Police Department. I am glad that the attorney general was involved in it. It is not just a school issue; it is a community safety issue.”

Armenta stressed that Weitz is an anomaly among the district’s 7,000 teachers.

“This individual in no way reflects the values or professionalism of our teachers, nor is it a reflection on the school he worked at,” she said.

Journal staff writer Kim Burgess contributed to this report.

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