Thursday, September 13, 2007
Teacher Caught In Girls' Room
By T.J. Wilham
Copyright © 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
An Albuquerque Public Schools substitute was allowed to teach for several days at other schools after a staffer caught him in a Madison Middle School girls' restroom, police said Wednesday.
That's because neither the police nor APS human resources officials initially were told what happened, school officials said. However, even after human resources was informed, he continued to teach several days.
The incident marks the third time in a few months that an APS teacher or substitute has been accused of inappropriate conduct.
APS officials said Wednesday that they have taken the substitute off the active-duty list and have started an investigation into how the middle school staff handled the incident.
"We hope to get to the bottom of this," APS spokesman Rigo Chavez said. "If there is any truth to the allegations, we will document those and take appropriate action."
The school at the time was looking into a previous accusation that the substitute made a girl feel "uncomfortable." There had been other concerns voiced by parents, but no allegation of criminal activity.
The 51-year-old substitute taught at Van Buren Middle School on Wednesday and was scheduled to teach there today until APS officials intervened.
A report about the Aug. 31 bathroom incident reached APS human resources Sept. 5.
APS did not contact law enforcement, according to Sheriff Darren White, who criticized APS for not reporting it to authorities.
"Allowing the substitute to continue to teach in APS schools was inexcusable and potentially dangerous," White said. "They need to completely revamp their reporting procedures for this type of behavior."
The sheriff's investigation started Wednesday after parents called, saying that a teacher had recently left Madison after being caught in the girls' bathroom, according to police reports.
The substitute was caught in a stall when an educational assistant was checking to make sure no students were hiding in the bathrooms and skipping class.
As she approached the stalls, she caught the substitute coming out of one of them. Two girls were in stalls at the time, but apparently not nearby.
When she confronted him, the substitute told her, "Well, I already received complaints from the parents and I am leaving the school anyway," according to police reports.
The substitute also claimed that he thought he was in the boys' bathroom, according to reports. Detectives said the interiors of the girls' bathrooms at Madison are pink and the boys' are blue. There are also designated bathrooms for teachers.
"It was pretty inappropriate for him to be in the bathroom and pretty illogical for him not to know," sheriff's Sgt. Rachel Azbill said. "He had no business being in there."
Shortly after the incident, the substitute went to principal Sean Joyce and told him he was going to leave for the day. At the time, Joyce was unaware of what occurred, according to police reports. Joyce was told later in the day.
Per APS policy, Joyce said, he filled out a substitute evaluation form and turned it in to the district. He also said that after learning about the bathroom incident, he asked that the substitute not be allowed to return to the school and that his record be reviewed. The police report does not indicate how Joyce made that request, whether by phone or mail.
Joyce also said when the substitute was caught in the restroom, it was his last day at the school. He had resigned the previous day after an allegation made by a female student, according to police reports.
That student alleged the substitute was giving her inappropriate attention and had touched her on the shoulders, which she said "made her feel uncomfortable."
Police said there was nothing criminal about the girl's accusation.
The substitute said he was leaving because of illness in the family, detectives said.
Joyce told detectives that other parents had come forward with concerns about the substitute's conduct, that he had addressed them and had watched the substitute in the classroom, according to police reports.
Spokesman Chavez said the district wasn't notified of the restroom incident until the form made it to human resources Sept. 5.
Meanwhile, APS had assigned the substitute to several other schools.
Chavez acknowledged the substitute had worked for several days even after APS' human resources department was notified.
Azbill said she didn't believe the substitute could be prosecuted under the state's new voyeurism law, because no complaint had been filed by a student, and no one saw him looking at anyone.
"We are going to file an informational report and document what occurred," said Azbill. "There was no criminal activity unless someone comes forward and complains he was taking pictures or looking at them in a place where there is an expectation of privacy."
Earlier this week, charges were filed against substitute teacher Robert H. Ashley after he admitted using a hidden video camera to film up an Atrisco Elementary student's skirt, according to court records. Ashley has not been taken into custody and is being called a fugitive.
In July, Christopher Lucero, 24, who taught last school year at Lavaland Elementary School, was arrested and charged with four counts of voyeurism after police say he secretly used a video camera to record up the skirts of young girls at Cliff's Amusement Park.