Cholla administrators respond to teacher sex abuse accusation

Published: Nov. 2, 2016 at 5:00 PM MST|Updated: Nov. 3, 2016 at 7:55 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Administrators at Cholla High Magnet School didn't contact police until almost a week after receiving a complaint of sexual abuse by a teacher.

A student, with her parent present, reported it to an administrator on Oct. 18, a day after the student said teacher Eddie Rodriguez touched her breast.

Also on Oct. 18, Rodriguez was placed on administrative leave and refuted the allegation against him, according to records obtained from Tucson Unified School District.

That same day, two Cholla administrators viewed surveillance video that substantiated the student's claim, according to the school's notice of intent to terminate Rodriguez.

School employees should report any abuse claims to the Department of Child Services and call 911, according to TUSD policy.

The same administrator who was first notified about the abuse interviewed three other students on Oct. 20, according to records from TUSD. None of the students interviewed by the administrator had witnessed the incident but all three said they did not believe it could be true.

School employees in Arizona are mandated to report abuse, according to Arizona Revised Statute 13-3620.A. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor offense, which becomes a felony if it involves a reportable offense.

Tucson Police Department responded to the school on Oct. 24, six days after an administrator first learned about the sexual abuse claim. Rodriguez was arrested on Oct. 26, according to police.

TUSD Governing Board Members Adelita Grijalva and Michael Hicks were contacted for comment. Hicks responded by saying he is worried that administrators at Cholla not only violated district policy but broke state law as well.

"Looking at this, and looking at what I'm seeing," he said. "It looks like they were trying to hide it."

Hicks said he's worried that this could be happening at other schools if it's happening at one of them. He said teachers and school employees are not meant to be investigators, so he assumes Cholla administrators handled the situation how TUSD leadership wanted.

"They don't do anything that the district doesn't tell them to do," said Hicks. "They don't do things on a whim, so they get their marching orders from above"

District leadership could not comment about the specifics because of the on-going investigation, according to spokeswoman Stefanie Boe. An on-camera interview was declined by TUSD but the following statement was shared:

Tucson Unified School District continues its own investigation into recent allegations involving a teacher at Cholla High Magnet School while also fully cooperating with the Tucson Police investigation. As of Monday, Oct. 31, the teacher resigned his position at the school before being terminated by the district.

The safety of our students is our number one priority. If it is found that proper procedures were not followed we will take corrective action. However, at this time it is too early in the investigation to comment further.

Copyright 2016 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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